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Ladakh Wildlife

Ladakh, also known as the 'land of passes', was discovered by Fa-hian, who traveled across its inhospitable terrain in 399 AD. He described Ladakh as the land where snow never melts and only corn ripens. The mysterious Ladakh stands at a height 4,600 meters in the outer Himalayas with its peaks, ranging

Ladakh Wildlife

from 5,800 to 7,600 meters forming the most striking feature of the area. The Himalayas are very higher than the other mightiest mountains anywhere in the world. For endless years, before man had even discovered this remote land, several animals and birds lived together here in an exquisite equilibrium. Today, Ladakh's flora and fauna are threatened and protection is vital if the ancient ecosystem has to survive the trauma of modern man. The area of Ladakh is unique and its climate supports some rare species of animals and birds. Due to its geographical location, the Ladakh's ecosystem is one of most fragile and at the same time most fascinating in the world. The landscape of Ladakh is characterized by uneven terrain, forbidden valleys, rugged landscape, and snow-swathed mountains which rise to several thousand feet above one of the most elevated plateaus on the earth. Ladakh is a mountainous, Arctic cold desert with no signs of trees far and wide. Winds blow here at a very high speed and everything is parched by


the dryness of the atmosphere. A few narrow fertile valleys are scattered here and there, and provide a clear sparkling air. With its barren plateaus it makes feel one surprising to know that Ladakh is so rich in flora and fauna. Ladakh possesses virtually no natural forests, although 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 are there. While soil, wind, precipitation and exposure determines the presence of specific life,

Wildlife in Ladakh

the temperature also changes at different altitudes. Because of the decrease in the temperature, vegetation becomes more sparse and stunted in the higher slopes. In this extremely harsh environment, animals, which have adapted to the rigorous conditions however, thrive on the minimal vegetation, poor shelter, rocky terrain and bitter cold. Most of the creatures migrate to lower regions in winter while others, like the brown bear and marmots hibernate. Ironically, at this altitude many animals suffer from "mountain sickness" because of the lack of oxygen! Most of the large mammals have a unique device for protection against the cold - a highly insulated shaggy coat. They, therefore, have less need for shelter from the elements. Due to this, more species of goat and sheep live here in open country than anywhere else on earth. During your sightseeing or trekking in Ladakh you would have a local Guide at your disposal and he would be glad to tell you more about the wildlife in Ladakh.


The Bactrian magpies, Turkoman rock pigeon, desert wheaters, buntings, larks, kite, kestrel and many kinds of finches, ducks, geese and hundreds of species of rare Himalayan birds inhabits the region of Ladakh. Many migratory birds can be seen in Ladakh during the summer month. The most famous of them is the Black-necked Crane, which can be seen in V-shaped formation across the clear Himalayan sky.

Birds in Ladakh

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
The greatest attraction of Ladakh is the Snow Leopard. The Snow leopard is one of the rarest wild animal. The Snow Leopard faces extreme threat from the poachers as their skin being popular in Tibet is smuggled and sold in the local market. The Snow Leopard is one of the endangered species and is officially a protected animal.

Snow Leopard, Ladakh

Nyan, the great Tibetan Sheep is another attraction of Ladakh. Nyan is the largest and most magnificent wild sheep. About 200 Nyans are found in the extreme eastern portion of Ladakh. The nyan normally remains at a great height and rarely descends to a level below 4,500 meters. Male Nyans are very attractive as they have long and huge curving horns which measures as long as up to 140 cms. The fighting between two Nyan makes it a good photo motive.


Small sheep, also known as Urial or Shapu can be seen at a height of 3000 to 4000 meter in the grassy mountain slopes. Urial also play an important role in the local food chain of the hunting animals. The urial weighs 85 Kg. and has horns measuring upto 99 cm. Urial is the smallest sheep in eastern Asia. The meeting of these species takes place during December-January and they give birth to their young ones around May. The need for protection of the Urial is great as they are within the easy reach of

Urial, Ladakh

hunters. Their numbers have been declining rapidly and it is estimated that there are not more than 500 sheeps in Ladakh. According to the survey by the Wildlife Department of Jammu & Kashmir there are only 34 to 50 sheeps in the Markha and Rumbak valleys.


Yak (dong), a wild ox is the largest animal of the cold desert. Yak was first described only a century ago by the famous Russian naturalist and explorer, N. M. Przewalski as most imposing than its placid domestic counterpart. Yak is immensely shaggy and weighs about a ton. 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

Yaks in Ladakh

muzzle. The yaks graze on the Himalayan valley at the height of over 6,000 meters in summer. In the winters, yaks migrate to lakes, marshes and lower valleys.


A rare Tibetan gazelle or the Tibetan antelope “Chiru” can be seen in small groups. “Chiru” falls under the protected species. This antelope is prized for its fleece which produces Shahtoosh, the very fine best wool used to make shawls. Now the trading of the wool has been banned in order to ensure the survival of these wonderful antelopes.

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