Pantholops hodgsonii 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Pantholops hodgsonii
Species Authority: (Abel, 1826)
Common Name(s):
English Chiru, Tibetan Antelope
French Tchirou, Antilope Du Tibet
Spanish Antilope Del Tibet, Antílope Del Tibet
Taxonomic Notes: The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is the only representative of a rather aberrant Caprinae genus (Pantholops) (Gatesy et al. 1997). It has previously been classified as a monotypic tribe Pantholopini and together with Saiga (Saiga tatarica) in a separate tribe Saigini.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Mallon, D.P.
Reviewer(s): Plowman, A. & Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority)
Numbers and distribution have both decreased sharply, mainly as a result of commercial hunting for the underfur. Improved protection measures have slowed the rate of illegal hunting though it is still a factor. The decline is estimated to have exceeded 50% and continuing over a period of 3 generations (est. 18-20 years, 1983-2003). Recently reported improvements in its overall conservation situation indicate the potential for a possible revised uplisting.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Formerly ranged across the whole Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Range decreased and now absent from all or most of the eastern plateau; the main stronghold of the species is in the remote Chang Tang area of north-western Tibet (Schaller 1998). A small number occur seasonally in northeast Ladakh, in the extreme north of India. Formerly occurred in a small area of northwest Nepal (Schaller 1977).
Countries occurrence:
China (Qinghai, Xinjiang); India (Jammu-Kashmir)
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Numbers were estimated at <75,000 by Schaller (1998). Following that, Feng (1999) estimated a population size of 100,000 to 120,000, while Xi and Wang (2004) guessed 150,000. However, these figures are speculative and rigorous population estimates over the entire Chiru range are urgently needed.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Inhabit high altitude plains, undulating hills plateaux and montane valleys at elevations of 3,700-5,500 m (Schaller 1998). Most populations are highly migratory or nomadic (Schaller 1998; Schaller et al. 2006), moving hundreds of kilometres between summer and winter ranges. Some populations migrate over much shorter distances (Harris and Miller 1995). Males and females are usually separate except for the mating period. Females congregate to give birth in traditional birthing grounds, some of which e.g. Central Kunlun have only recently been identified. The ecological parameters of these sites are not fully understood.
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Chiru have long been hunted for their underfur (shahtoosh), which is renowned for its quality and which has traditionally been transported to Srinagar in Kashmir, where it is woven into an extremely fine fabric used to make shawls. This hunting escalated to a commercial scale in the late 1980s and 1990s, becoming the major threat to Chiru and leading to a severe decline in numbers (Wright and Kumar 1997). Measures to restrict illegal hunting and smuggling of the product have become increasingly effective, though the problem has not been eliminated. Horns of the males have also been traditionally used as gun rests, and to a limited extent in traditional Chinese medicine. Other important threats include expansion of livestock herding into remote and previously unused areas (Fox and Bårdsen 2005), road building (facilitating the above and illegal hunting), fencing of pastures on the Tibetan plateau, and construction of the Beijing-Lhasa railway which threatened to divide Chiru range. Engineering measures, including "underpasses", now appear to be having some beneficial effect. Chiru are also vulnerable to severe winter conditions. An exceptional snowstorm in Qinghai in 1985 caused high mortality and led to their disappearance from some areas especially in the eastern part of their range (Schaller and Ren 1988).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Listed on Appendix I of CITES. The Chiru is legally protected in China and India, but enforcement of the law over the vast area of its habitat has been problematic, but enforcement efforts have recently been intensified (Zhen 1999; China Daily 2004), public awareness of the Chiru within China has increased, and some populations have evidently begun to respond (Schaller et al. 2003). Occurs in Qiantang, Kekexili, Arjin Shan and Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserves and Jung Kunlun provincial nature reserve. Since 2002, IFAW has organized and sponsored an annual workshop for nature reserve staff and other officials from the three Chinese provinces where the majority of the population is concentrated (Tibet, Qinghai, Xinjiang).

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.3. Sub-national level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.1. Nomadic grazing
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.1. Roads & railroads
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.3. Temperature extremes
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Wearing apparel, accessories
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Feng, Z. J. 1999. Status and Conservation of Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni) in China. In: R. D. Zhen (ed.), The Future of Tibetan Antelope. Proceedings of an International Workshop on Conservation and Control of Trade in Tibetan Antelope, October 12–13, 1999, Xining, Qinghai, China, pp. 27–28. Beijing, China.

Fox, J. L. and Bårdsen, B.-J. 2005. Density of Tibetan Antelope, Tibetan Wild Ass and Tibetan Gazelle in Relation to Human Presence Across the Chang Tang Nature Reserve of Tibet, China. Acta Zoologica Sinica 51: 586–597.

Gatesy, J., Amato, G., Vrba, E., Schaller, G. B. and DeSalle, R. 1997. A Cladistic Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA from the Bovidae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 7: 303–319.

Harris, R.B. and Miller, D.J. 1995. Overlap in summer habitats and diets of Tibetan plateau ungulates. Mammalia 59: 197-212.

Harris, R. B., Pletscher, D. H., Loggers, C. O. and Miller, D. J. 1999. Status and trends of Tibetan plateau mammalian fauna, Yeniugou, China. Biological Conservation 87: 13–19.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Jiang, Z. and Wang, S. 2001. China. In: D. P. Mallon and S. C. Kingswood (eds), Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Mallon, D. P. and Kingswood, S. C. 2001. Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Schaller, G.B. 1998. Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.

Schaller, G. B. and Ren, J. 1988. Effects of a snowstorm on Tibetan antelope. Journal of Mammalogy 69: 631-634.

Schaller, G. B., Kang, A. L., Ca, X. B. and Liu, Y. L. 2006. Migratory and Calving Behavior of Tibetan Antelope Population. Acta Theriologica Sinica 26: 105–113.

Schaller, G.B., Kang, A.L, Hashi, T.D. and Cai, P. 2007. A winter wildlife survey in the northern Qiangtang of Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, China. Acta Theriologica Sinica 27: 309-316.

Schaller, G. B., Lü, Z., Wang, H. and Su, T. 2003. A Census of Tibetan Antelope in the Eastern Chang Tang Reserve. IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group 22: 12–14.

Wright, B. and Kumar, A. 1997. Fashioned for Extinction. Wildlife Protection Society of India, New Delhi, India.

Xi, Z. N. and Wang, L. 2004. Tracking Down Tibetan Antelopes. Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, China.

Zhen, R. D. 1999. The Future of Tibetan Antelope. Proceedings of an International Workshop on Conservation and Control of Trade in Tibetan Antelope, Xining, Qinghai, China, October 12–13, 1999. Beijing, China.

Citation: Mallon, D.P. 2008. Pantholops hodgsonii. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T15967A5335049. . Downloaded on 24 August 2016.
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