On the high mountain steppes and semi-desert of the Tibetan Plateau, vast herds of Chiru roam the plains in their epic migration in search of food. They share this beautiful yet harsh landscape with other hardy animals. This place is often compared to that of Africa’s famous Serengeti due to the surprising number of big mammals that call this place home. One of the last Chiru strongholds is the vast Changtang National Nature Reserve. Other reserves created to help protect the Chiru such as West Kunlun and Shor Kul Tibet Antelope Nature Reserve would hopefully help ensure that, at least, some space is left for them to live. Like many endangered animals.
Chiru’s are threatened by multiple factors including continued illegal poaching, habitat fragmentation, competition with domestic livestock. And with populations concentrated in few reserves, disease outbreak and changing climate are also real concerns. The future of the Tibetan antelope, while not secure, does have hope. With continued international support and local involvement, the tide can be slowed down and give the species a fighting chance.
The immense hunting pressure eventually leads to the collapse of the population with an estimated 70,000 animals left at their lowest, pushing it dangerously close to extinction’s door. The remoteness of the area that once kept the Chiru safe can no longer save it from human greed and exploitation. During their lowest point, the Chiru joined others on the CITES list and was listed as endangered. Fortunately, some action, tougher and more effective, was implemented to try to save the last remaining Chiru population left. International education and campaign that brought awareness to the dire situation also helped.
Today, the population is slowly recovering and there are approximately 150,000 animals left, a shadow of their former glory when herds used to number in the millions. Their IUCN status has also change to that of near threatened, a much brighter spot compared to just a couple of decades ago. Despite a complete ban on hunting, the illegal poaching and shahtoosh trade still present a serious threat to the Chiru’s future. And as far as I am aware of, there are no Chorus in captivity. Their extreme specialization makes them unsuited for captivity, so all conservation efforts must be done in-situ.