European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 81–91 | Cite as

Seasonal migration by a large forest ungulate: a study on takin (Budorcas taxicolor) in Sichuan Province, China

  • Tian-Pei Guan
  • Bao-Ming Ge
  • William J. McShea
  • Sheng Li
  • Yan-Ling SongEmail author
  • Chad M. Stewart
Original Paper


Migration in large mammals is a biological phenomenon that involves seasonal movements over a vertical or horizontal scale that encompasses distances of more than several home ranges. Takin are large bovid herbivores that conduct seasonal migrations. From 2006 to 2009, we utilized data from 9 GPS-collared animals and 22 trail event recorders to describe takin migration pattern at the level of both individuals and population. We found seasonal migration of takin over an elevation gradient which contained two migration cycles, with takin inhabiting the highest elevations in summer, lowest elevations in spring and autumn, and intermediate elevations during winter. These movements did not involve expansion of home range size but rather shifts in distribution. Habitat availability analysis based on five forest types indicated that takin showed significant monthly forest preferences. Based on both telemetry and trail monitors, mature forest with bamboo understory was the habitat favored by takin for more than 8 months of the year. Both methods also indicated that not all individuals migrated to the highest elevations during summer or the lowest elevations in winter. We also found that individual takin do not necessarily follow the same annual movement, as three out of the four animals with at least 2 years of data changed their migration pattern between years. Current protocols for annual surveys conducted at high-elevation meadows or low-elevation valleys are not adequate to detect all individuals. We suggest that surveys must include all potential habitats and include detection functions in order to accurately estimate takin numbers or relative changes in their density.


Elevation gradient Budorcas taxicolor Migration Bamboo forest Population estimation Habitat availability analysis 



We thank the Hong Kong Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, National Geographic Society, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, The Wilds and Friends of the National Zoo for funding and trials of these collars and takin capture procedure. We appreciate Sichuan Forestry Department and Administration of Tangjiahe Nature Reserve for research permissions and management support. We thank Shen XiaoLi for providing valuable suggestion on statistics. We also thank Chen Li Min, Ma Wen Hu, Yang Jun, and all other Tangjiahe staff for providing great help in the takin capture, radio tracking, and logistic support. We thank Rachael Weiss, Barbara Wolfe, and Evan Blumer for assistance with darting and veterinary care.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tian-Pei Guan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bao-Ming Ge
    • 3
  • William J. McShea
    • 4
  • Sheng Li
    • 4
  • Yan-Ling Song
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Chad M. Stewart
    • 4
  1. 1.Ecological Security and Protection Key Laboratory of Sichuan ProvinceMianyang Normal UniversityMianyangChina
  2. 2.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Sciences and Ecological Engineering, College of life ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Coastal Wetland Bioresources and Environmental ProtectionJiangsuChina
  4. 4.Smithsonian Conservation Biology InstituteFront RoyalUSA
  5. 5.Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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