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 Lesson 15: Yaks

0081Kevin.jpg (106004 bytes) Welcome to the EverestNews.com Lesson plans developed by Kevin Cherilla ( base camp manager of the NFB 2001 Everest Expedition and 7th and 8th grade physical education teacher from Phoenix, Arizona) and the staff at EverestNews.com, the largest mountaineering publication in the world.

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The Tibetan yak, Bos grunniens, is most closely related to the African buffalo, the American bison, and the European bison. The yak, found only in several isolated localities high on the Tibetan plateau between altitudes of 4000 and 6000 meters (13,000 to 19,600 ft), is considered an endangered species.

Objective: The students will be able to discuss adaptations that make the yak suitable for living in high altitudes. The students will list ways that the Nepalese use the yak.

Guided Practice:

1. Discuss the importance of the buffalo to the Native Americans. Include ways that the Native Americans used and honored the buffaloes. Tell the students that the buffalo and the yak are similar animals and have many things in come.
2. Have the students read the paragraphs either orally or silently. Discuss the reading restating the key issues.
3. Show pictures of yaks (try to include pictures of how yaks are beneficial to the Nepalese people).

Independent Practice:

1. Read the paragraphs on yaks and answer the questions.
2. Write a paragraph about how yaks might be used on the expedition to Mount Everest

Optional Extensions:

1. Come up with five to ten other uses for the hair of a yak. Try to be creative as possible.
2. Sketch a picture of a yak and a buffalo and compare the differences.

Reading and Questions:

Native Americans relied enormously on the buffalo for their everyday life, so to with the Nepalese people and the yak, which is similar to the buffalo. Yaks are used for food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. The yaks also are regarded highly due to the Tibetans religious beliefs. Regardless of this high honor, Nepalese have no qualms about eating the animal. Actually killing yaks though, is more difficult for religious reasons, and Buddhist Nepalese do not kill easily.

When a yak is killed, very little is wasted. Horns are often used for draining blood and cutting meat. Sometimes horns are often used in decorations. The head of a yak is dried and served at New Year's celebrations. The fur of a yak, which can grow to be two feet long on the torso, is used to make ropes, clothing, slings, sacks, and even tents. Yak fur tents are warmer than canvas tents, and these tents hold up much better under intense winds. The yak fur allows smoke inside the tent escape, while the oils in the fur keeps water from penetrating inside. Underneath the fur is wool which is used for clothing and boots. Even the tail of the yak has been used by shaman as healing aids.

The name yak in English is a general term for the animal species. In Nepal, the term yak means the male of the species and the female animal is called a dri. These animals are quite adapted to high altitudes and they are most comfortable at altitudes of 10,000 to 18,000 feet. When the yak is thirsty at these altitudes, he will eat the frozen snow, which will provide him with water. If grass is hard to find with the snow cover, yaks will dig in the snow until they find grass to eat. Sometimes a yak will dig a yard down in the snow until grass appears. Since these animals are so sturdy, the yaks are used as the main source of transportation.

The milk of a yak (dri) contains twice as much fat as the milk from cattle found in the lowlands of Nepal. This milk is a golden color and is rarely drunk, but instead is used for yogurt and butter. There are a variety of uses for the yak butter for example, in tea, as a face lotion, and as fuel for lamps.

1. What are some of the ways that yaks are used by the Nepalese people?
2. How are the yaks adapted for high altitudes?
3. What is a shaman?
4. Write a paragraph on how yaks might be used on an expedition to Mount Everest.

Further Reference Microsoft Encarta 99 – Find: Yaks

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