Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii)

loading
Tibetan antelope male with females on steppe plains
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Tibetan antelope fact file

Tibetan antelope description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusPantholops (1)

The Tibetan antelope, or ‘chiru’, is well known for possessing the finest and warmest wool in the animal kingdom. This adaptation provides warmth in the harsh climate of the Tibetan plateau but has contributed greatly to this species’ decline (2). These antelope are most closely related to wild sheep and goats, they have grey to reddish-brown coats with a remarkably soft and dense undercoat (2). The underparts are creamy white in colour and the bulbous nostrils have small inflatable sacs on the side (4). Male Tibetan antelope have slender, black horns that may reach 60 centimetres in length; in winter they possess black markings on the face and legs (2).

Also known as
Chiru.
French
Antilope Du Tibet, Tchirou.
Spanish
Antílope Del Tibet.
Size
Male shoulder height: 80 – 85 cm (2)
Female shoulder height: 75 cm (2)
Male weight: 35 – 40 kg (2)
Female weight: 25 – 30 kg (2)
Top

Tibetan antelope biology

Mating occurs in November and December (2), at this time males fight fiercely in an effort to control access to groups of 10 – 20 females (4). Females migrate north to give birth, over 300 km away, in June and July (2). A single calf is usually born, although life expectancy is extremely low in this harsh environment (2).

Tibetan antelope are extremely wary and alert; partially concealed, they rest in depressions dug into the soil, which provide protection from mountain winds and predation (4). Herds mainly browse in the morning and evening, resting at midday (4).

Top

Tibetan antelope range

Endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, this antelope is found mainly in Chinese regions although some individuals migrate to Ladakh in India (2).

Top

Tibetan antelope habitat

The Tibetan antelope inhabits harsh steppe areas at elevations of 3,700 to 5,500 metres above sea level (4), where temperatures can fall to -40°F (2).

Top

Tibetan antelope status

Classified as Endangered (EN – A2d) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

Top

Tibetan antelope threats

Large herds of antelope previously roamed the Tibetan plateau, and they are the only large mammals native to this region. In the 1990s however, a worrying decline in numbers was recorded and the population was estimated to have fallen to around 75,000 animals (5), with as many as 20,000 individuals killed annually (2). The principal cause of this decline is to supply the ‘shahtoosh’ trade; the production of shawls made from the fine, warm wool of this species. Shahtoosh stands for ‘king of wools’ in Persian and became a sought-after fabric in the fashion capitals of the world towards the end of the 20th Century (6). Up to five antelope are needed to produce a single shawl and these can fetch up to US$ 15,000 on world markets (2).

Top

Tibetan antelope conservation

Tibetan antelope are protected by law in China, India and Nepal (2), and international trade is prohibited by their listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (3). Until 2002, shahtoosh shawls were legally produced in the states of Jammu and Kashmir in India but a vital ban on manufacture has now been introduced (7). Widespread education and anti-poaching campaigns have been carried out and these have gone some way towards slowing the decline in this magnificent species (2). There is evidence that illegal trade still continues however (7) and conservation efforts must continue.

To learn more about a Whitley Award-winning conservation project for this species, click here.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For more information on the Tibetan antelope see:

Top

Authentication

Authenticated (11/03/2006) by Dr. David Mallon, Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group.
http://www.asg-antelope.org/

Top

Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2003)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Tibetan Plateau Project (TPP) (July, 2003)
    http://www.earthisland.org/tpp/
  3. CITES (July, 2003)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Ultimate Ungulate (July, 2003)
    http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Pantholops_hodgsonii.html
  5. Wildlife Conservation Society (July, 2003)
    http://wcs.org/home/wild/Asia/672/
  6. Traffic (July, 2003)
    http://www.traffic.org/shahtoosh/tibetanantelope.html
  7. TRAFFIC. (2000) Jammu and Kashmir bans shahtoosh manufacture. TRAFFIC Bulletin, 18(3). Available at:
    http://www.traffic.org/bulletin/jammu.html
X
Close

Image credit

Tibetan antelope male with females on steppe plains  
Tibetan antelope male with females on steppe plains

© Xi Zhinong / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
Bristol
BS1 5RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699
info@naturepl.com
http://www.naturepl.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS