New insights on takin migration

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The study, which is the first of its kind, will give a complete report on Bhutan’s national animal once completed

Alka Katwal

from Thimphu

The Bhutan Trust Fund For Environment Conservation (BTFEC) funded project: “The study of Bhutan’s National Animal Takin Migration” conducted by a team of researchers led by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) sheds light on new insights of the takin habitat.
Bhutan’s national animal-takin scientifically known as Budorcas taxicolor whitei is a subspecies and endemic to the country. According to the report, not all takins of Tsharijathang, Laya migrate to Gasa in Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) as most local residents believed. Some of the takins of Tsharijathang are found to migrate towards Soe and Naro in Paro and Lingshi in Thimphu.
Similarly, a different conclusion was drawn from collared takin of Kabina which heads to Lunana from Laya Taksimakhang. The fission movement of takins to various places is a new finding which assures good genetic diversity in the population.
The report also points out that the animal has a different migration strategy where females migrate to summer habitat at a shorter distance (less than 3 km) with frequent breaks of a fortnight in a particular place. Such movement is an adapted migration behaviour to allow their newborn calf to cope with migration through the rugged mountainous terrain.
On the contrary, the males migrate to the winter ground along the ridgeline for three days continuously, and go above 5,300m above sea level for more than three hours (8.45PM to 1.45AM) travelling about 18km a day.
The report states that the ridgeline movement at that height through late night is certainly an interesting finding of a male animal migration.
The Director of BTFEC said the organisation funded the research project because even though takin was the national animal of Bhutan, no concrete study on takin has been done till date.
“The research studies the distribution, dietary pattern, habitat ambiance of the animal among others,” he said. While the research is almost complete, the team said it will take a little more time for the final publication.
So far, the concerned organisation does not know how many takin are in Bhutan. While the above study is done only for the takin in the JDNP, various other similar studies are being conducted on takin which will provide a consolidated data on takins. The takin’s habitation has shown clear hotspot areas in and around hot springs and salt lick. The collar data clearly showed the cluster around such landmarks. So far about 17 takins have been radio collared at JDNP, which will help to find out the number of takins in the area.
The report states that the study will go a long way in contributing to science and knowledge of the Bhutan Takin especially of its migrations across its habitat and range. It is also expected to have a bearing in developing conservation management plan for country’s national animal: Bhutan Takin. The three-year period project costs about Nu 5 bn.