The species is considered extinct in both Nepal and Bhutan. Until recent decades wild yak penetrated northern Nepal (Miller et al. 1994), but there is no evidence that the species still occurs in Nepal and is considered extinct in the country. In India, the species is currently known from Ladakh region of Kashmir (Schaller and Liu 1996, Ul-Haq 2003).
In China, the species occurs in scattered populations on the Tibetan Plateau (Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Tibet), with the main populations remaining in the Chang Tang Reserve, covering 284,000 km between in northern Tibet (Schaller and Liu, 1996, Fox et al. 2004), as well as in the Arjin Shan area of southeastern Xinjiang, and Kekexili Nature Reserve in Qinghai and adjacent areas of the Kunlun Mountains (Harris et al. 1999; Harris and Loggers 2004, Schaller et al., 2007). There are also isolated populations north and south of the main population, in the west central Tibet, south-central Qinghai, and western Gansu.
Grubb (2005) mentions the existence of feral populations in a few places within China, but these do not appear to have conservation significance.
China (Tibet), India
Habitat and Ecology
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2000Vulnerable (VU)
- 1996Vulnerable (VU)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Endangered (E)
- 1988Endangered (E)
- 1986Endangered (E)
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Bos mutus, see its USFWS Species Profile
In India, only a very few Wild Yak remain, with some individuals moving seasonally into the Ladakh region of Kashmir from areas controlled by China (Schaller and Liu 1996; Ul-Haq 2003).
Interbreeding between domestic and wild yaks also presents a threat to the remaining Wild Yak populations (NRC 1983; Khan 1984; Schaller and Liu 1996; Harris et al. 1999; Smith and Xie 2008). Diseases transmitted from domestic livestock, either directly or via other wild species, may be an additional threat, although this has not yet been documented. Schaller and Gu (1994) documented low recruitment in a wild yak population in the Chang Tang Reserve in 1990. Only 6.7% of the total population sample (n=586) in the Aru basin of Chang Tang Reserve were young of that year; in the nearby Yalung basin the figure was only 5.3% (n=114). Even fewer young were recorded in 1992: only 1.0% of the population (n=315) comprised young animals and only one yearling was seen (n=225) in the Aru basin. It is unknown whether this reproductive failure was due to disease - e.g., brucellosis, which can cause spontaneous abortion - or to high levels of postpartum mortality (Schaller and Gu 1994).
Where wild yaks have held on or increased in numbers, interactions and conflicts with domestic pastoralists have recently increased (including abducting domestic yaks into wild herds, and in some cases, damage to humans or their property; Tsering et al. 2006). This has the potential to increase retaliatory killing (although it presently appears to be rare).
If domestic livestock can be kept out of the large nature reserves containing wild yaks, their persistence is likely. However, the geographic range of wild yaks has evidently continued to contract toward the west, with herds east of the Golmud-Lhasa highway increasingly small and isolated (Schaller et al. 2007).
In India, the species receives total protection under The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 (IUCN-ELC in litt. to Hedges 1991).
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