A rare Sichuan takin calf, born May 8, 2010, is now on exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo. The male calf has been off exhibit since his birth to make sure he was healthy and bonding with mom. He is now on exhibit on the Northern Trail with his mother, father, and another takin.
Considered national treasures by the Chinese, takin are rare in North American zoos: less than 75 takin are in just 20 North American zoos. Found in forest mountainsides in China, the Sichuan takin refers mid-altitude mountains, dense undergrowth, and rocky hillsides. “Little is known about their numbers in the wild due to their inaccessible habitat,” says Northern Trail Supervisor Diana Weinhardt. “Illegal hunting and habitat destruction, due to an increase in human population, threaten these animals.”
The Chinese refer to the takin as “Ling Niu” or “antelope cow.” This unusual-looking relative of the musk ox looks like a small moose, climbs like a mountain goat, has short curved horns like a gnu, and snorts. Takin, who stand 3–4 feet high, eat shrubs, grasses, and leaves. They are even able to stand on their hind legs and reach branches 10 feet off the ground. There are three subspecies of takin: Mishmi, Golden, and Sichuan. The Mishmi takin, found in India, Bhutan, and Burma, can be recognized by its chocolate-brown coat. The Golden takin – named for its golden color – is found in China, as is the Sichuan takin, whose appearance can be considered a “mix” the other two subspecies: a golden face with a dark-colored body.
The Minnesota Zoo participates in a breeding loan agreement with other zoos, a valuable tool allowing zoos to breed unrelated animals. All takin are managed cooperatively between the zoos.