Ethnic and Cultural Diversity amongst Yak Herding Communities in the Asian Highlands.
Sustainability 2020,12: 956-981.; doi:10.3390/su12030957
Yak (Bos grunniens L.) herding plays an important role in the domestic economy throughout much of the Asian highlands. Yak represents a major mammal species of the rangelands found across the Asian highlands from Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the west to the Hengduan Mountains of China in the east. Yak also has great cultural significance to the people of the Asian highlands and is closely interlinked to the traditions, cultures, and rituals of the herding communities. However, increasing issues like poverty, environmental degradation, and climate change have changed the traditional practices of pastoralism, isolating and fragmenting herders and the pastures they have been using for many years. Local cultures of people rooted in the practice of yak herding are disappearing.Therefore, it is very important to document the socioeconomic and cultural aspects of yak herding.The broad aim of this paper was to provide a brief overview on the geographical distribution of yakin the Asian highlands and to provide in-depth information on yak-herding ethnic communities, the sociocultural aspect associated with yak herding, and challenges and emerging opportunities for yakherding in the Asian highlands. Altogether, 31 ethnic groups in 10 different countries of Asia andtheir cultures are documented herein. Yak was found to be utilized for many different household purposes, and to have cultural and religious aspects. Unfortunately, yak rearing and related traditionshave been losing their charm in recent years due to modernization and several other environmental issues. Lastly, we suggest that there is an urgent need to take action to minimize the challenges faced by yak-herding mountain communities to conserve the traditional pastoral system and associatedcultures of these ethnic communities.