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The Golden Fleece

The Golden Fleece Today’s Endangered All-Star: The Takin, a goat-antelope of the Himalayas. There are four subspecies, including the Golden Takin, rumored to bear the precious fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts. But in the real world, all four subspecies are considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with a probable decline of some 30% over the past several generations. A heavily built alpine specialist, the Golden Takin is the national animal of Bhutan; this and the other subspecies occupy ranges that include western China, Tibet, northern Myanmar, and India. Accurate population figures are hard to come by because the Himalayan habitat favored by these creatures is remote and inaccessible. The IUCN suggests perhaps 5,000 Golden Takin (Budorcas taxicolor bedfordi) survive in China, along with several thousand of the related subspecies across its range. Despite enjoying protected status in China, India, and Bhutan, the takin faces severe pressure from hunting: Local people or poachers lie in wait at salt licks where the animals congregate. Over a dozen nature reserves have been established to protect the Takin, and ten of those within Sichuan—intended to secure giant panda habitat—have also helped provide a safe haven for Takin. Captive-breeding programs are also underway: The Czech Republic’s oldest zoo, in the city of Liberec, recently welcomed another calf in January 2010, its sixth. Two more are expected soon.
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