The Fourth International Congress on Yak will be held in Chengdu, China from September 20 to 26, 2004, according to organizers. The Yak is one of the most important domesticated animals in Tibet and the theme of the Congress is sustainable development of Yak husbandry.

Participants will present and discuss “research findings on the Yak, to discuss sustainable development of Yak husbandry and to promote communication, friendship and cooperation,” according to an announcement. The Third International Yak Congress was held in Lhasa from September 4 to 9, 2000 with the Tibet Academy of Agriculture and Animal Sciences acting as the organizer. The host of the fourth Congress is the Southwest University for Nationalities and the Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Animal Husbandry and Foodstuff in Chengdu.

Sessions are scheduled on Production System; Genetics and Breeding; Nutrition and Feeds; Reproduction and Physiology; Diseases and Health Service; and, Products, Processing and Marketing

There will be special symposiums on a) Sustainable Management of Rangelands for Yak Keeping, and b) Understanding and Utilization Yak Genetic Diversity.

While there are over 12 million Yaks in the world, most of these are domestic. Their wild counterparts have been listed as being vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the world conservation union. This means it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.

In addition to Tibet, the Yak is also found in the mountain regions of Bhutan, India and Nepal.

The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas. According to conservation groups, by around 1970 it was thought to occur only in remote areas, mainly in the northern and especially the northeastern parts of Tibet above 4000 m (13,000′), with a few animals still existing in Sikkim. Wild Yak distribution is highly clumped, with most animals in widely scattered herds, concentrated in the areas with little disturbance by humans.

Yak watchers say that the wild Yak has lost most of the best alpine meadow and steppe habitat to pastoralists. Problems are also caused by habitat disturbance, hybridization and competition with domestic Yaks, and disease transmitted by domestic Yaks.

ICUN says that hunting, including commercial hunting for meat, is “the most serious threat to Wild Yak even though the species is fully protected under Chinese law.” Its range has been reduced by more than half during this century. Interbreeding between domestic Yak and wild Yak also presents a threat to the remaining wild Yak populations; as do diseases transmitted from domestic livestock to wild Yak, either directly or via other wild species. In addition, low fertility in wild Yak population presents a serious threat to the species.