Until I visited the Highland Wildlife Park (HWP) I had never heard of the Mishmi Takin. This is one animal that you can’t say ‘it looks like a…’ as you’d then have to start listing a long list of other animals. It’s a very distinctive looking animal in its own right.
These are large, muscular animals who, from ground to shoulder, stand at 105cm (female) – 120 cm (male) with a body length of 170 – 220 cm and a body weight approximately 250 – 400 kg. They have impressive crescent-shaped horns which can be 64 – 90 cm long and are ridged at the base. Another outstanding feature is their nose. It’s very large and contains sinuses which warm up the air before it reaches its lungs – this stops loss of body heat. They don’t have skin glands but do secrete an oily, strong smelling substance which covers their coat. This provides them with protection from fog, rain and other moisture. They also have a thick secondary coat which they shed in the summer. As you look at them, you’ll see that they have a stripe down their backs. They also have split hooves.
I won’t tease you any longer, this is the Mishmi takin:
If I asked what animal do you think the Mishmi Takin are most closely related to, what would you say?
The Mishmi Takin (Budorcas taxicolor taxicolor) is a subspecies of the Takin (Budorcas taxicolor). You probably wouldn’t believe it but its most closely related to the aoudad, or Barbary, sheep of North Africa. However, it does share a lot of characteristics with goats and antelopes, and despite their size can be very nimble. Due to their size and strength they tend not to have too many natural, wild predators except for wolves and tigers.
They are ruminants who will eat almost any vegetation they can find. This includes tough leaves of evergreens, bark of pine and willow trees, bamboo and rhododendron leaves. They can also stand on their back legs to reach higher and new grown shoots. In fact, quite often when visiting the HWP I have seen them standing on their back legs eating from their feeding troughs. They tend to eat early in the morning and late afternoon. In the wild, they can travel great distances to get salt deposits as they require a large mineral intake.
The Mishmi Takin tend to live in herds which can be very large. During the spring/summer period they can be as large as 300 animals. The herd is made up of young males, subadults, young kids and adult females who are referred to as cows. The older bull males tend to be solitary animals and only join up with the herd during the rut, also known as the breeding season. The cows tend to have a single kid and give birth in dense woodland. During the winter, in the wild, there tends to be less food so the herd tends to break into much smaller herds of around 30 animals.
Don’t worry you are not going to bump into any of these animals as they aren’t found in the wild in Scotland. They are found in China, India, Myanmar and Bhutan. It was thought that the subspecies found in Bhutan was a completely separate subspecies but the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) found that these were part of the Mishmi subspecies.
The Mishmi Takin is on the Red List as Vu (Vulnerable) and decreasing. It’s listing of A2cd has been based on a probably decline of at least 30% over the last three generations. This last assessment was made in 2008. In China the main threat is hunting mainly for the traditional medicine trade whereas in Myanmar they are hunted for bushmeat. However, one of their other main threats is loss of their habitat caused by deforestation and competition with other species.
The European Studbook (ESB) for this species is managed by RZSS.
Highlandwildlifepark.org.uk. (2019). Mishmi Takin | Highland Wildlife Park. [online] Available at: http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/animals-attractions/animals/mishmi-takin/ [Accessed 8 Mar. 2019].
Song, Y.-L., Smith, A.T. & MacKinnon, J. 2008. Budorcas taxicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3160A9643719. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T3160A9643719.en. Downloaded on 08 March 2019.
Miller, M. (2019). Meet the Takin: The Largest Mammal You’ve Never Heard Of. [online] Cool Green Science. Available at: https://blog.nature.org/science/2018/01/22/meet-the-takin-the-largest-mammal-youve-never-heard-of/ [Accessed 8 Mar. 2019].
Tibet Nature Environmental Conservation Network. (2019). TAKIN – Tibet Nature Environmental Conservation Network. [online] Available at: http://www.tibetnature.net/en/takin/ [Accessed 8 Mar. 2019].
Animals.sandiegozoo.org. (2019). Takin | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/takin [Accessed 8 Mar. 2019].