Tuesday, February 18, 2014
by Corinna of TheFrogBag
Photos courtesy of Arkive.com
Chinese Gorals – the Half-and-Half Animal
Look, way up there, on top of that hill. That must be some kind of mountain goat, right? Well, not quite, although it is a member of the same subfamily. But if you’re in Asia and you’re very, very lucky, what you’re probably seeing is a goral.
Gorals are often said to be “goat-like” but in fact they have a number of cow-like characteristics. So many, in fact, that they are classed as being a small member of the bovid subfamily. To be fair, this is true of mountain goats too. But like cows they possess four-chambered stomachs and the ability to “chew cud” as well as a digestive process that can take as long as four days. That’s because their primary diet is tough grasses and shrubs, even though they’re happy to take more nutrient-dense forage like acorns when they can get them. All of which makes them a bit like sturdy, action-ready antelopes too, and in many ways they can be considered the half-way point between those delicate beasts and true goats.
Life in the high mountains can be difficult, but gorals don’t shy from extremes. While usually found between 3,000 and 8,000 feet (915 to 2,440 meters) they have been spotted as high as 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). The window for reproduction in such a place is short, so almost all babies are born in May and June after a relatively lengthy (7 month) gestation period. The kids then follow their moms everywhere for a full year, learning what it takes to survive in such a harsh environment.
Their best defense against predators is their ability to scale steep, rocky cliffs with seemingly little effort, but those horns aren’t just for show. Mother gorals are especially quick to drive off even wolves and snow leopards if given the chance.
Sadly, even the tough goral can use some help these days. They are widely hunted for sport, contend with fragmented habitat, and, due to their mountainous habitat, suffer disproportionately from climate change. In addition, there have been few studies focusing on them in the wild, leaving them without a sound conservation plan despite their IUCN Redlist status of “vulnerable.”
Want to help the Chinese goral?
A good place to start is by supporting the Snow Leopard Trust (www.snowleopard.org) since these big cats share much of the same habitat. Hopefully with a little help these two magnificent species will battle it out on Asian mountaintops for years to come.
Posted by Brizel Handcrafts on Tuesday, February 18, 2014