In the northern Himalayan area of India a number of indigenous animals such
as the wild yak and the Tibetan antelope have probably already become
locally extinct. Researchers from Wageningen and India found indications in
the Spiti valley that the animals have been pushed out by local livestock.
It seems that reducing the grazing areas for farm livestock may be the only
way to save the Tibetan antelope from total extinction.
The northern part of the Himalayas, also referred to as the Trans-Himalaya
region is a cold and barren area. It lies over 3500 metres above sea-level
and is covered with snow for most of the year. In large parts of this
highland area there is clearly less diversity in large grazing animals than
in other nearby areas, such as Tibet to the east. Until recently biologists
attributed this to lack of food sources in the area, but this explanation
is probably not entirely correct, according to Dr Ignas Heitkönig of the
Tropical Nature Conservation and Vertebrate Ecology Group Wageningen
University. Competition from livestock probably plays a more important
Heitkönig bases his remarks on a study he carried out with Dr Sip van
Wieren and Professor Herbert Prins, chair of the above-mentioned group, and
Dr Charudutt Mishra of the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore, India.
The biologists analysed the wild herbivore assemblage in the Spiti Valley,
an area of about 12,000 km2. They found three different herbivores in the
area: the Tibetan woolly hare, the bharal (Himalayan blue sheep) and the
ibex. In other surrounding areas such as parts of Tibet and the southern
Himalayas, however, seven or more different herbivore species are found.
“The species that are missing in the Spiti Valley are the wild yak, the
Tibetan wild ass (Equus kiang), the Tibetan argali (Ovis ammon hodgsonii)
and the Tibetan antelope or chiru (Pantholops hodgsonii),