Student - March 27, 2008

Kashmir goat is driving out Tibetan gazelle

The Tibetan gazelle is on the verge of extinction in India. An important cause is the severe competition with Kashmir goats. As a result of growing demand for their wool, increasing numbers of Kashmir goats are being raised and they are now threatening the remaining gazelle population.

Conservationists in India say the situation is becoming critical as there are only a hundred Tibetan gazelle left in the remote area of Ladakh, also called Little Tibet. To assist the conservation plan being drawn up, Tsewang Namgail, a PhD researcher at the Resource Ecology group, examined the use these antelopes make of their environment. He published his research results in the journal Oryx. One finding is that the gazelle does not have problems with large livestock such as yaks, but competes with sheep and goats. ‘This is cause for great concern,’ says Namgail. ‘The domestic mountain goat population in particular is growing in the area, because of the increasing demand for pashmina, the finest type of cashmere wool.’

Like the Tibetan antelope, the Kashmir goat lives at altitudes above 4500 metres, where a warm winter coat is essential. In the spring the goats shed their winter fleece; the goatherds gather the wool that is left on thorny bushes and rocks, and brush the goats. Only the wool from the belly is fine enough to weave into pashmina shawls. Many goats are needed, as one pashmina shawl requires the winter fleece of at least three goats.

The goats live in the same areas as the Tibetan gazelles and eat largely the same vegetation. This is threatening the survival of the antelope, which are having to go in search of other areas. Namgail concludes that if the population in India is not to become extinct, the grazing pressure from small ruminants in their habitat must decrease considerably. Outside India the Tibetan gazelle is found in larger numbers in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in western China, but there the population is also dwindling fast.

Re:act