The Water Male Dragon Year arrived with not less than a roar at the Motithang Takin Preserve when three takin calves were born.
This comes as good news to conservationists as the takin population at the preserve started deteriorating between the year 2002 to 2006. Inbreeding depression due to genetic deterioration was suspected to be the main cause.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) officials, the first delivery of a female takin took place on February 7 around 8 pm by an old stock takin and the second calf was born from a new stock breed around 6 am on February 9.
However, the third calf from an old breed stock could not survive despite much effort put in by the wildlife rescue team including the preserve in-charge; it died on the same day.
An adult female sambar also gave birth to a young one on the morning of February 24.
Currently, the preserve has 16 takins of which eight of them belong to the old breed including two sub-adults in the age category of two and three years respectively. The preserve started with 2 animals in 1975 (Motithang Zoo, then) and the numbers multiplied over the years to the current figure in 1989.
There was a sudden drop in the number of takins from 10 to 7 between 2002 to 2006.
To rejuvenate the existing stock by increasing the genetic diversity and gene pools, in 2010, under the Royal Command of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, the wildlife rescue team reintroduced wild takins from Jigme Dorji National Park. This consisted of two lactating females, one adult male and two orphaned calves. The lactating females successfully delivered upon arrival at the preserve.
Other animals at the preserve includes 10 sambars, two barking deer and a goral which were either rescued from the snares set up on farmlands or bodily injured. A few animals were also transferred from the Royal Lingkha where they received the care of the Druk Gyalpo and other members of the Royal Family for several years, said the Head of WCD, Sonam Wangchuk.
The wounded animals after being tended for injuries are released back into the forest with the exception of a few animals which may be retained depending on their ability to cope up in the wild. WCD undertook a major translocation program in 2011 as the Preserve was found overcrowded with deers and sambars. About 15 animals were released at Jigme Dorji National Park where they are presently monitored by park staff to ensure they do not come into conflict with farmers.
The preserve is also getting a major uplift through the establishment of a visitor information center, additional provision for lab facilities, cafeteria, gazebo (watch tower) around the preserve and manager office plus residence with a total funding support of over Nu 10mn received from the government.
The Bhutan Takin (Budrocas taxicolor whitei) is one of the four recognized subspecies across its range including Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. They congregate in large numbers during summer at the grazing grounds such as Tsharijathang under Jignme Dorji National Park (JDNP) and Dhur Tshachhu area under Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP), and descend down to the lower elevations during the winter in smaller numbers.
Takin in the preserve are believed to attain sexual maturity at about five to six years. Mating takes place in the month of June to July and the young one is born after a gestation period of seven to eight months mostly in the month of February.
Also joining the wildlife family yesterday evening at the preserve was a seven-month old Sambar calf which was rescued by Wangdue Forest Division.
According to the Chief Forestry Officer of Wangdue Forest Division, Gomchen Drukpa, the calf was rescued when it was barely two days old from a herd in Sha Ngawang in August last year.
The option to keep the deer at Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi was also explored. However, Motithang Takin Preserve was found safer as there were too many street dogs in Lamperi.