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Meet The National Animal of Bhutan, The Takin

In the mystical landscapes of Bhutan, where traditions are meticulously intertwined with everyday life and the lush terrains are as revered as the ancient monasteries, roams a unique and little-known creature, the takin. If you’ve ever wondered about the blending of seemingly mismatched animals, then the takin, with its quirky appearance resembling both a cow and a goat, is bound to captivate your imagination.

This animal is not just fascinating in appearance but is steeped in mythology and religious history, marked with tales of miracles and divine interventions. Ever heard of an animal created by combining parts of two different creatures? Well, there’s more to unfold about the mysterious takin, so stick around!

Quick Info About The Takin

Scientific Name:Burdorcas taxicolor
Average Size:97 to 140 cm (38 to 55 in) at the shoulder
Average Weight:200 kg (440 lbs) – 350 kg (770 lbs)
Average Lifespan:12-15 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity
Geographical Range:Eastern Himalayas: North-western & far north-eastern Bhutan
Habitat:Forest valleys, rocky, grass-covered alpine zones, elevations around 4000m (13,123 ft)
Conservation Status:Vulnerable (IUCN Red List)

Meet The Takin, National Animal of Bhutan

Venture into the heart of Bhutan, and you may just have the delight of encountering the intriguing takin. Imagine a creature with the robust body of a cow and the head of a goat, wandering in herds through the secluded valleys and steep, grass-clad alpine realms of the Himalayas. The takin, or ‘Dong Gyem Tsey’ as it is traditionally known, is a bizarre yet fascinating concoction of features.

Both males and females proudly don stout, ridged horns at the base, standing as a distinctive feature of the species. A thick neck and short, muscular legs allow them to navigate the rugged terrains with ease, while their arching noses give them a distinctive profile. Typically, an adult takin weighs between 200 to 350 kg, although some individuals can reach up to 400 kg.

Beyond their appearance, takins play a vital role in their ecosystem. They primarily feed on bamboo, navigating heights of around 4000 meters to graze. These bovids are a crucial link in the food chain, consuming plants and in turn serving as prey for predators, ensuring the ecological balance in their high-altitude homes.

A curious fact is the takin’s ‘cough’ alarm call; when disturbed, they emit this distinctive sound to alert their herd, disappearing swiftly into the dense bamboo thickets to camouflage.

Bhutan Takin

Where Does The Takin Live?

The takin is an embodiment of endurance, adapting to the rough and variable climates of the Eastern Himalayas. They predominantly inhabit the northwestern and far northeastern regions of Bhutan.

The serene and secluded valleys, interspersed with rocky, grass-covered alpine zones, form the ideal dwelling places for this species. Elevated at approximately 4000 meters above sea level, these regions provide the takin with the bamboo-rich diets they crave.

The landscapes here are more than just picturesque; they are survival arenas where the takin roams, showcasing its resilience and adaptation to harsh climatic conditions and uneven terrains. It’s not just about survival but a harmonious existence with the environment, a delicate dance with the elements, where the takin has mastered the steps, maintaining the equilibrium of the ecosystem.

Why and When Did The Takin Become The National Animal of Bhutan?

The relationship between the takin and Bhutan is steeped in myth, religion, and a touch of the extraordinary. On November 25, 2005, the takin was honored as the national animal of Bhutan, symbolizing the rich heritage of the country’s religious history and mythology. But why the takin, you ask?

The story dates back to the 15th century when the revered Tibetan saint, Drukpa Kunley, was requested to conjure a miracle. Legend has it that he devoured a whole cow and goat and, in a feat of divine craftsmanship, attached the head of the goat to the body of the cow.

With a command, this creation sprung to life as the takin and fled to the mountainsides to graze. It’s said that to this day, the takin can be spotted in the highlands of Bhutan, a living testament to this miraculous fusion.

However, the emblematic status hasn’t shielded the takin from threats. A glaring paradox exists, as the same communities that revere it also hunt it for its meat. The horns of the takin are sought after in the illegal wildlife trade, adding another layer to their vulnerability.

Debates and controversies persist around conservation efforts and the ethical dimensions of hunting, poaching, and habitat conservation within Bhutan, reflecting the ongoing struggle between tradition, survival, and modernity.

Bhutan Takin

Where is The Takin Featured in Bhutan?

While the takin doesn’t grace the national flag or currency, its presence is deeply felt throughout Bhutan, symbolizing the interweaving of the spiritual, the mythical, and the natural. Visitors to Bhutan can witness this majestic creature at the Motithang Takin Preserve in Thimphu, the national capital.

This preserve narrates a story of compassion; takins were initially confined in a mini-zoo, but the King of Bhutan, advocating for the well-being of animals, ordered their release, reinforcing the Buddhist values of empathy and respect for all living beings.

The existence of the preserve provides an opportunity for both locals and tourists to connect with the national animal, fostering a sense of pride, appreciation, and responsibility towards the conservation of the takin. It’s more than a mere spectacle; it’s a living reminder of Bhutan’s cultural richness, spiritual beliefs, and commitment to harmony with nature.

Names of The Takin

The takin is often known by the scientific name Burdorcas taxicolor.

Locally, it is revered as “Dong Gyem Tsey” in Bhutan, a name resonating with its mythical creation and its intertwining with the nation’s religious fabric.

Is The Takin Endangered?

Yes, the takin is marked as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, painting a concerning picture of its survival. It’s estimated that only a few thousand takins remain in the wild.

The hunting of takins for their meat and the illegal trade of their horns make their existence even more precarious. Habitat loss due to man-animal conflicts has further dwindled their numbers.

However, the passion for conservation is alive in Bhutan, and efforts are ongoing to shield this creature from extinction. The Motithang Takin Preserve stands as a symbol of Bhutan’s commitment to safeguarding its national animal, offering a sanctuary, and fostering awareness and respect for the takin amongst locals and visitors alike. 

Bhutan Takin

Interesting Facts About The Takin

  1. Distinctive Blend: The takin is a fascinating blend of a cow and a goat, a unique creature roaming the highlands of the Himalayan kingdom, a marvel of biodiversity.
  2. Camouflage Masters: When threatened, takins emit a ‘cough’ alarm call, leading the herd to vanish into thick bamboo thickets, seamlessly blending with the surroundings.
  3. High Altitude Dwellers: Inhabiting elevations around 4000m, the takin has adapted to thrive in the alpine zones, a testament to nature’s marvels of evolution and endurance.
  4. The Legend: The takin is not merely an animal in Bhutan; it’s a legend, created by the divine madman Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century, a living symbol of the miraculous and the spiritual intertwined.

Other Beautiful Animals Native To Bhutan

  • Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens): A small arboreal mammal, cloaked in red and white fur, often seen roaming the eastern Himalayas.
  • Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia): The elusive and majestic cat of the high mountains, gracefully moving through the snowy landscapes.
  • Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris): This regal and powerful feline can be found in lush forests, a symbol of strength and endurance.
  • Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus): The national bird of Nepal also graces the high-altitude regions of Bhutan with its iridescent plumage.
  • Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis): A symbol of longevity and prosperity, it dances through the valleys of Bhutan, etching its grace on the nation’s spirit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the takin the national animal of Bhutan?

The takin is deeply entwined with Bhutanese religious history and mythology, symbolizing the miraculous creation by the divine madman Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century.

Is the takin a real animal, given its mythical creation?

Yes, the takin is very much a real animal, a unique species residing in the Himalayan regions, representing a fascinating blend of a goat and a cow.

How can tourists experience the takin in Bhutan?

Visitors can witness the takin at the Motithang Takin Preserve in Thimphu, a sanctuary dedicated to the conservation and study of this remarkable animal.

Is Bhutan taking measures to conserve the takin?

Yes, Bhutan, through sanctuaries like the Motithang Takin Preserve and conservation efforts, is actively working to protect and conserve the takin, reflecting the nation’s commitment to biodiversity.

Do takins have any natural predators?

Due to their size and habitat, adult takins have fewer natural predators, but snow leopards and wolves can pose threats to the younger ones.

Other National Symbols of Bhutan

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