Takin (Budorcas taxicolor)
|Size||Length: 1.7 - 2.2 m (2)|
Shoulder height: 1 - 1.3 m (2)
|Weight||up to 350 kg (2)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
The takin is one of the larger and stockier of the goat antelopes. Short legs are supported on large, two-toed hooves, which have a highly developed spur (4) (5). The large head is made more distinctive by the long, arched nose, and stout horns that are ridged at the base and can reach 64 centimetres in length (4). The long shaggy coat is light in colour, with a dark stripe along the back (4), and males (bulls) also have a dark face (5). Four subspecies of takin are currently recognised, and these tend to show a variation in coat colour. The legend of the 'golden fleece', searched for by Jason and the Argonauts (2), may have been inspired by the lustrous coat of the golden takin (B. t. bedfordi) (5). Rather than localised scent glands, the takin has an oily, strong-smelling substance secreted over the whole body (5).
Found in the Himalayas and western China (2), their range extends from India, into China, Myanmar and Bhutan (1). The four subspecies differ in range; the golden and Sichuan takins (B. t. bedfordi and B. t. tibetana) are found only in China, the Mishimi takin (B. t. taxicolor) is found in India and Myanmar, and the Bhutan takin (B. t. whitei) is found in China, Bhutan and India (1).
Found from forested valleys to rocky, grass covered alpine zones, at altitudes of between 1,000 and 4,500 metres above sea level (4).
Takin are found in small family groups of around 20 individuals, although older males may lead a more solitary existence. In the summer months, herds of up to 300 individuals gather high up on the mountain slopes (4). Mating takes place between July and August and a single young is born after a gestation period of around eight months (4). Takin migrate from the upper pasture to lower, more forested areas in winter (4). When disturbed, individuals will give a 'cough' alarm call and the herd will retreat into thick bamboo thickets and lie on the ground for camouflage (2).
Takin feed in the early morning and late afternoon (2), grazing on a variety of leaves and grasses (4). Salt is also an important part of their diet and groups may stay at a mineral deposit for several days (4).
Very little data on the distribution and size of takin populations exists, partly as a consequence of the inaccessibility of their habitat (6). Factors such as habitat loss, competition with other species and disease are all thought to be threatening takin populations today, but further research is urgently required (1).
The takin is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and an export permit is thus required for international trade (3). A captive population exists and is managed by the studbook held at Minnesota Zoo in the United States (6).
For more information on the takin see:
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- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Subspecies: a different race of a species, which is geographically separated from other populations of that species.
IUCN Red List (August, 2010)
Ultimate Ungulate (March, 2008)
CITES (March, 2008)
Animal Diversity Web (November, 2002)
- Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Minnesota Zoo (March, 2008)