The Tibetan antelope, or ‘chiru’, is well known for possessing the finest and warmest wool in the animal kingdom. This adaptation provides warmth in the harsh climate of the Tibetan plateau but has contributed greatly to this species’ decline. These antelope are most closely related to wild sheep and goats, they have grey to reddish-brown coats with a remarkably soft and dense undercoat. The underparts are creamy white in color and the bulbous nostrils have small inflatable sacs on the side. Male Tibetan antelope have slender, black horns that may reach 60 centimetres in length; in winter they possess black markings on the face and legs.
Mating occurs in November and December, at this time males fight fiercely in an effort to control access to groups of 10 – 20 females. Females migrate north to give birth, over 300 km away, in June and July. A single calf is usually born, although life expectancy is extremely low in this harsh environment. Tibetan antelope are extremely wary and alert; partially concealed, they rest in depressions dug into the soil, which provide protection from mountain winds and predation. Herds mainly browse in the morning and evening, resting at midday.
Range and Habitat Edit
Endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, this antelope is found mainly in Chinese regions although some individuals migrate to Ladakh in India. The Tibetan antelope inhabits harsh steppe areas at elevations of 3,700 to 5,500 metres above sea level, where temperatures can fall to -40°F.
Tibetan antelope feed on forbs, grasses, and sedges, often digging through the snow to obtain food in winter. Their natural predators include wolves, lynx, and snow leopards, and red foxes are known to prey on young calves.
Tibetan antelope are gregarious, sometimes congregating in herds hundreds strong when moving between summer and winter pastures, although they are more usually found in much smaller groups, with no more than 20 individuals. The females migrate up to 300 km (190 mi) yearly to calving grounds in the summer, where they usually give birth to a single calf, and rejoin the males at the wintering grounds in late autumn.