Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) - Wiki
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The Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) is a medium-sized bovid which is about 1.2 metres (4 feet) in height. It is native to the Tibetan plateau including China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai province, and Xinjiang province; India near Ladakh and formerly western Nepal. The Tibetan antelope is also known commonly by its Tibetan name chiru. The coat is grey to reddish-brown, with a white underside. The males have long, curved-back horns which measure about 50 cm (20 inches) in length.
Despite its classification in the Antilopinae subfamily, recent morphological and molecular evidence suggests that the Chiru is more closely allied to goats and the subfamily Caprinae (Gentry 1992, Gatesy et al. 1992, Ginsberg et al. 1999).
Tibetan antelope are gregarious, sometimes congregating in herds hundreds strong. The females migrate up to 300 km yearly to calving grounds in the summer where they usually give birth to a single calf, and rejoin the males at the wintering grounds in late autumn (Schaller 1998). Chirus live on the high mountain steppes and semi-desert areas of the Tibetan plateau such as Kekexili, where they feed on various forb and grass species. The average life span is about eight years.
Tibetan antelope are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service due to commercial poaching for their underwool, competition with local domesticated herds, and the development of their rangeland for gold mining. The Chiru's wool, known as shahtoosh, is warm, soft and fine. The wool can only be obtained by killing the animal; Its numbers have dropped accordingly from nearly a million (estimated) at the turn of the 20th century to less than 75,000 today. The numbers continue to drop yearly. The struggle to stop illegal antelope hunting was portrayed in the 2004 film, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol.
In July 2006 the Chinese government inaugurated a new railway that bisects the chiru’s feeding grounds on its way to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. In an effort to avoid harm to the animal, thirty-three special animal migration passages have been built beneath the railway. However, the railway will bring many more people, including potential poachers, closer to the chiru’s breeding grounds and habitat. The Chinese government's policy of encouraging large movements of new Chinese settlers into the animal's habitat and its historically poor management of resources also endanger areas protected for the Tibetan antelope.
2008 Summer Olympics mascot controversy
The Tibetan antelope has been selected as one of the five official mascots for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. The mascot, named "Yingying", is one of the "Five Friendlies" of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Human rights groups have noted this selection as an example of propaganda purporting the unity of nationalities in China, a distraction from the forceful, illegal occupation of Tibet by the Chinese government.
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