The number of takins at the takin preserve in Motithang is decreasing, according to officials from the Nature Conservation Division (NCD).
From 16 takins in 1989, today there are only 7: 4 male and 3 female. This, according to a nature conservation specialist, is because of inbreeding among the animals kept in the enclosure.
“Since the takins are kept in an enclosure, inbreeding is bound to take place,” said nature conservation specialist, Sangay Wangchuk.
“Over the years inbreeding among the takins in the preserve has become a problem.” The preserve’s caretaker, Tashi Norbu, said that inbred calves find it difficult to reach for their mother’s milk, since they are very small. “Inbreeding weakens their immunity and they become susceptible to diseases,” he said.
The takins from the preserve were not released into the wild because they have become too domesticated, said Sangay Wangchuk, adding that they were kept in the enclosure for about 20 to 30 years and lost their adaptability to the wild. For instance, they may not be able to climb steep slopes like their wild counterparts, he said.
In an attempt to solve the inbreeding problem in the preserve, NCD is now looking to find 1 male and 2 female takins from the wild.
Sangay Wangchuk said that sighting takins in the wild was not a problem, but it was difficult to tranquillise and transport them to the preserve. “
Apart from being heavy animals, it’s difficult to tranquillise them, keeping in mind their safety, as they are found on steep slopes,” said Sangay Wangchuk.
Since their natural food is not available to them, takins in the enclosure are given additional food supplements like chickpeas. One takin consumes six kilograms of chickpeas a day, said Tashi.
The wild population of takin in the country has been stable over the years. This is “because they require a large habitat which is not a problem and poaching in Bhutan is non-existent”, said Sangay Wangchuk, adding that the only threat they face were from predators like bears and wild dogs.
The takin is a migratory animal. During the summers they are found in Tsharijathang and, during the winter, they come downhill as far as Rimchu in Punakha.
Meanwhile, the preserve welcomed a male calf just three weeks ago, and named it Nagpo.