The Mishmi takin herd at the Highland Wildlife Park has welcomed a new arrival, a new born male calf called Hobbit.
Born to doting mum Cava and indifferent dad Raci, this Mishmi takin is the first calf to be reared in the Highland herd since 2010. Hobbit by name, hobbit in size – this youngster is easy to spot due to the gulf in size difference between him and the adults and his 2 year old siblings. He also has a white band of hair across his forehead where his horns will eventually be.
At just 20 days old Hobbit is still staying quite close to mum Cava, but has more recently been exploring the enclosure solo. Amazingly takin calves can follow their mums just one day after birth over a whole host of different terrain.
Stocky and surefooted, these animals are natives to Bhutan, Northeast India, Northern Myanmar and the neighbouring border areas of China in the Eastern Himalayas and they can be found living at heights of up to 14,000feet (4,500metres). These large goat antelopes were thought to be related to the musk ox of North America and Greenland due to some physical similarities, but genetic research has shown that they have no close relatives. They have thick, brown, shaggy coats, and the golden “wool” that appears on the backs of mature males is believed to possibly be the foundation of the mythical ‘golden fleece’. Interestingly, these animals produce a strong smelling oily substance which covers their coat to create a natural raincoat. As well as this they have a secondary thick woolly coat which keeps out the wind and chill – making them perfectly suited for the Scottish Highlands!
Due to their size and muscular strength these feisty animals’ only predators are tigers, leopards and possibly bears, although they now find themselves under threat in the wild due to hunting for meat, the traditional medicine trade and habitat loss.
Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, said:
“With the newest arrival we now have a herd of six Mishmi takins at the Park. These goat antelopes have some truly fascinating adaptations that make them perfect for living in colder, high altitude climates, such as the Eastern Himalayas and of course the Scottish Highlands.
“Noteworthy in particular is their moose-like long muzzles, that helps warm the air that they take in when breathing before it reaches their lungs. Without this they would lose a large amount of body heat just by breathing.
“Because of their size and slightly bizarre appearance, the takin are fairly popular with our visitors, in part because most people cannot quite figure out what they are. From a conservation perspective, the Mishmi takin is listed as Endangered and the European breeding programme, which is managed by staff from the Highland Wildlife Park, may be of increasing importance given the pressures upon the wild population. For me the takin holds a particular long term interest. When I was ten years old, my parents took me to the Bronx Zoo in New York which at the time held the only captive takin outside of Asia. When I saw their animal it was the first time I had seen a large mammal in a zoo that I could not readily identify as it bore no resemblance to any other group of hoofed animals that I was familiar with. From that point on I was a committed takin fan”.