China: Drones used to monitor wild yaks

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Wild yak

China is using drones to monitor rare herds of wild yaks in a remote mountain region, it's reported.

Scientists use the unmanned aircraft to calculate the number of yaks in the mountain wilderness of Xinjiang province, and to collect data about their habitat, reports official news agency Xinhua. In November, a drone performed four flights, taking photos of the yaks, the areas where they live and also collecting meteorological information, the agency says.

The research programme is run by zoologists from Xinjiang's Altun Mountains nature reserve and Beijing Normal University, which are looking for better ways to protect the wild yaks. Due to decades of rampant hunting, numbers in China have shrunk to between 30,000 and 50,000.

An estimated 10,000 yaks are believed to be roaming the remote Altun Mountains at an altitude of 3,000 to 6,000m, where they have lived for centuries undisturbed by humans or other animals. "It's extremely difficult for field workers to access their habitats or track their activities," Zhang Xiang, deputy chief of the Altun Mountains national nature reserve, tells Xinhua.

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