GILGIT, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News) – Yak is called the king of mountains of Gilgit Baltistan, Wahkhan Corridor, Pamirian, Tibetan and high altitude regions. It is kept in the highland pastures for their tractability, tolerance to the harsh climate, and high value products of meat, milk, butter, wool, hair, and hides.
Traditionally, people of mountain ranges used the yak for carrying burdens at high altitudes, where horses cannot survive. The people of mountain regions in Nepal, Tibet, Ladakh, Badakhshan (Afghanistan) and Chupursan Gojal(Hunza) and traders of Pamair use the yaks for carrying goods from one place to another.
Yaks provide food – both meat and milk, transport, shelter and fuel for the people of high altitude regions. Yak’s meat is very luscious due to its high percentages of Omega 3 oils. Its meat contains higher protein, solids, minerals, and vitamins than the beef, while scoring much lower in saturated fats, cholesterol, triglycerides, and calories than beef.
At the end of the summer grazing season, when the animals are at their peak weight and cold conditions prevail, yak are traditionally slaughtered to fulfill the meat requirements for the winter. The meat is cut into thin pieces and dried.
In Gilgit Baltistan, yak is considered as a rear natural resource having comparative advantage for raising socio-economic condition of poor and remote mountain dwellers in supplying the key food ingredients such as milk and meat.
According to officials of livestock department in Gilgit, the total actual population of yak in the Gilgit-Baltistan is estimated 50,000 while more than 100,000 were yak hybrids.
Amir Khan, who brings yaks from the Pamir region and sells them in the Gilgit city during the winter, said, “I earned a reasonable profit by selling the animals in Gilgit and Skirdu cites because of their succulent meat in winter.” In Gilgit Baltistan, the Shigar, Shimshal, Chipurson, Misgar, Hisper, Hoper, Thalay, Phundar, Yasin, and Ishkoman valleys have significant number of yaks, while yak-cow hybrids dominate in the Baltistan area.
Aslam Khan, an expert of Wildlife Department Gilgit, said, “The people living around the regions of protected areas, i.e., Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP), Khunjerab National Park (KNP), Qurumber National Park (QNP), and Hundrap-Shandoor National Park (HSNP), largely depend on yaks and their crossbreeds for their livelihoods and household income”.
“The population of yak and yak hybrids in GB has been growing to a great extent over the past 20 years. Yak husbandry has become an economically viable activity in the mountain region of GB,” Aslam added.
A project has been launched by the Ministry of Food Security and Research, Islamabad called “Development of Yak at High Altitude Areas of Pakistan (GB)”, which will assist the further growth of yaks in the mountain areas of GB.
Yak husbandry can be transformed into a socially acceptable high-value, off-farm trans-border agro pastoral activity with ecological benefits by improving the productivity of yak and their crossbreeds. Pakistan-China transborder cooperation for science, technology, and trade may offer a pathway for this. The China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) can be a big stimulator for transboundary yak husbandry in the region.