Snapping the Yak: How an Iconic Photo Ended Up on Nepal's Currency

What started out as a research expedition ended with a rare photo of an animal that hadn't been spotted in decades. 

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It was high up on the Plateau of Tibet in Nepal in 2015 — a six-day mule trek away from civilization — when Geraldine Werhahn took a photo so iconic that it now graces the country’s 5 rupee note. Werhahn, a zoology graduate student at the University of Oxford, had finally spotted a wild yak.

Yaks are nothing short of legends in Nepal. The domesticated variety of the bovine, which is smaller than its wild cousin, is a cornerstone of the country’s agriculture-based economy and is featured on the old 5 rupee note.

But no one had spotted a wild yak in Nepal in nearly 55 years, despite a 2013 expedition for that exact purpose, led by the Nepalese non-governmental organization Friends of Nature. During an excursion in search of wolves in 2014, Werhahn and her research colleague Naresh Kusi caught a glimpse of what may have been two wild yaks, but the animals disappeared too quickly to confirm.

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