When thinking of sheep and goats, grassy farmland usually comes to mind images of a farmer sheering the wool from the sheep or feeding a goat some snacks at a petting zoo. Many people think of them as domesticated beings for a good reason. More than two billion sheep and goats are kept as pets or used for meat, milk, or wool. However, their wild counterparts are declining in numbers and are at risk of extinction.
Mountains and mountainous areas are the main habitats for these wild sheep and goats. Most other species can’t survive in these conditions, making them a primary food source for predators that live in these habitats. However, there was no explanation as to why their numbers were decreasing until recently - when a new study revealed that poaching is one of the main reasons. The study specifically focused its research on the country of Myanmar. They tracked the number of wild animals traded in meat markets over the course of twenty years, from 2000 to 2020. During that time, they noticed a substantial increase in the number of wild goats and sheep traded. Parts that are traded include eyes, tongues, heads, legs, and tails for medicinal purposes. Traders will also sell horns for decoration, meat for food, and ointments made from rendered fat and glands.
These wild goats and sheep are part of the Caprinae family, a family of hoofed animals that includes around 40 different species. Some species included are the serow, goral, takin, and blue sheep. Myanmar has protected some of the species through the law, but apparently, more is needed. The study stated, “Despite legal protection, trade continues blatantly across Myanmar,” and continued, “On the basis of our study, we suggest that there is a clear need for more effective monitoring, enforcement, and prosecution in order to deter the illicit trade in wildlife….” But who is going to take that work as their responsibility? The neighboring markets of China and Thailand also have a strong customer base for these wild meat markets, further complicating the issue.
Wild goats and sheep may not be as flashy as a majestic tiger or a mighty rhinoceros, but their numbers are declining, and they also need help before their populations are wiped out entirely. To read the complete study, click here.