YAK, WILD AND DOMESTIC
Harnessing yak milk for cheese


The Wild Yak is a flagship species of the Tibetan plateau, with about 10,000 individual animals remaining. It is also an important genetic resource for the enrichment of the domestic yak, its smaller cousin, of which China has over 13 million, or over 90% of the world’s population. CERS has been active in research on the Wild Yak as well as exploring new potential for the enhancement of value of the domestic stock.

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WILD YAKS AND A BRUSH WITH DISASTER

Paul Buzzard, PhD
Cuochi, Qinghai
- April 2010

As the earthquake tragedy Wild Yak ready to chargeunfolded in Yushu, Qinghai, in mid-April, our thoughts and prayers have definitely been with those affected. On that fateful day, we were fortunately in the Cuochi community over 250 kilometers away. We barely felt tremors that morning and didn’t even hear the news until that night. I was not able to make international calls but thankfully a prompt email response by How Man put my mother at ease. The earthquake certainly put things in perspective, and we quickly had a meeting in response. We decided it best that I return to Xining via Golmud while the others finish the last wild yak protection team workshop in Cuochi before returning to Jiegu to check on friends and help out the rescue effort.

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TRACKING WILD YAK IN THE SNOW

Wong How Man
Dunhuang, Gansu - 21 January 2010


Wild Yak crossing frozen riverThe sound is disturbing. With each step, I can hear the ice cracking behind me as I cross the frozen river. Rather than walking, I am waltzing awkwardly on ice, sliding one foot after the other, as I glide gingerly towards the other bank.

The five yaks we are trying to approach are on the other side of the river, still 500 meters away. We cannot make just a single crossing to reach them. As the river meanders, we have to cross over it several times. And then there are other smaller streams between us and the yaks. So the sound of cracking ice becomes more frequent - and foreboding.

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HOW YAKS CAN CHANGE THE ECONOMIC
AND ECOLOGICAL LANDSCAPE OF TIBET

Wong How Man
Tai Tam, Hong Kong - 28 September 2008

There are over 13 million yaks on the Tibetan plateau, accounting for over 90% of the
world’s yak population.This number provides for a ratio of 2.5 yaks to each Tibetan.

Historically a Tibetan nomad family can subsists on a dozen or so yaks, providing the most basic requirements for livelihood. The wool can be used to make their tents, knitted as sweaters, or weaved as rugs. The meat provides high protein low cholesterol beef as food. The milk (no toxic melamine added in such remote area!) is made into butter, key ingredient of the all-important Tibetan beverage called butter tea, as well as yogurt and cheese. The yak also serves as a beast of burden. Even its dung, when dried and hardened, provides a most useful fuel for cooking and heating.

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