Wildlife in Ladakh

Wildlife in Ladakh The animal species of Ladakh have shown an excellent ecological adaptation and flourished at an altitude where men can hardly breathe. Travellers find the wildlife of Ladakh interesting both in terms of ecological specialisation and their occurrence in the remote regions of rugged Ladakh. Ladakh possesses virtually no natural forests, though along riverbanks and valleys some greenery does exist. The lower mountain slopes are sparse but higher up, near the snow line, wild rose, willow and herbaceous plants have successfully colonized the slopes. This is the alpine zone. While soil, wind, precipitation and exposure are important determinants in the arrangement of specific life, the temperature differential due to altitude is by far the most important factor. Because of the decrease in the temperature, vegetation becomes more sparse and stunted as one ascends the slopes.

Animal Species in Ladakh

In this extremely harsh environment the untrained eye would hardly see any evidence of wildlife at all. Animals, which have adapted to the rigorous conditions however, thrive on the minimal vegetation, poor shelter, rocky terrain and bitter cold. Nevertheless, most creatures, notably the ungulates, do migrate to lower regions in winter while others, like the brown bear and marmots, choose to hibernate. Ironically, at this altitude many animals suffer from "mountain sickness" because of the lack of oxygen! Their bodies however, seem to adopt to this condition, as the number of red blood corpuscles increases along with blood acidity. Most large mammals have a unique devise for protection against the cold-- a highly insulated shaggy coat.


Yak

Yak in Ladakh The largest animal of the cold desert is the yak (dong), a yak wild ox. First described only a century ago by the famous Russian naturalist-- explorer, N.M.Przewalski, the wild yak is definitely more imposing than its placid domestic counterpart. Immensely shaggy and weighing about a tone it has curved horns whose tips can be as wide apart as 90 cm. and measure 76 cm. over the curves. It can easily be distinguished by its long black hair, which is tinged with gray at the muzzle. Spending its summers at a height above 6,000 meters, in winter it moves in herds to the lakes, marshes and lower valleys


The Great Tibetan Sheep (Ladakhi: nyan)

Largest and most magnificent of wild sheep in the whole world, it is also called the Great Tibetan sheep (Ovis ammon). Roughly 200 of these are found in the extreme eastern portion of Ladakh. The horns of the nyan measure up to 145 cm. and the animal normally remains at a great height, rarely descending to a level below 4,500 meters.


Urial or the Smallest Sheep (Ladakhi: shapu)

Urial or the Smallest Sheep -Ladakhi: shapu The urial or shapu, (Ovis orientalis), which weighs 85 Kg. and has horns measuring upto 99 cm., is the smallest of the world sheep in eastern Asia, its body just about as tall as its horns. These sheep prefer the grassy mountain slopes, usually at a height of 3,000-4,000 meters. The meeting of this species, as is the case with most sheep during December-January and they give birth to their young around May. The need for protection of the urial is great as they are with in easy reach of hunters. Their numbers have been declining rapidly and it is estimated that there are no more than 500 in Ladakh, while a survey by the Wildlife Department of Jammu & Kashmir puts another population in the Markha and Rumbak valleys at only around 34-50.The most common and wide spread of the sheep in the Ladakh region is the bharal or the blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur). Found at an altitude of almost 6,000 meters, in summer they graze in huge herds on the rich and abundant grasses of the alpine meadows. Their brownish-gray coloring provides them with protective camouflage and as they often stand motionless they can be extremely difficult to spot but, when alarmed, bharal will bolt swiftly to safety Strangely bharal seem to bear some morphological traits of both sheep and goats


Bharal

Bharal, a blue sheep can be seen at the height of 6000 feet. In summers they graze on the rich and abundant grasses of the alpine meadows. Their brownish-gray color provides them with protective camouflage and as they often stand motionless they can be extremely difficult to spot but, when alarmed, Bharal will bolt swiftly to safety. As this species of sheep posses the appearance of both sheep and goat, so they play a vital role in the mythological stories related to Buddhism.


Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard The area of Ladakh also supports and shelters a good population of snow leopards. The snow leopard is found in the high mountainous regions of Central Asia. In India, it can be spotted in the states that lie along the northern Indian border. The species of snow leopard has been declared endangered and efforts are on to promote measures that help the breeding population perpetuate.




Birds

Birds in Ladakh

The area of Ladakh also supports and shelters a good population of snow leopards. The snow leopard is found in the high mountainous regions of Central Asia. In India, it can be spotted in the states that lie along the northern Indian border. The species of snow leopard has been declared endangered and efforts are on to promote measures that help the breeding population perpetuate.