Wildlife of Ladakh

The flora and fauna of Ladakh was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s. The fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia generally, and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau. An exception to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 318 species have been recorded (Including 30 species not seen since 1960). Many of these birds reside or breed at high-altitude wetlands such as Tso Moriri.

The snow leopard (shan) once ranged throughout the Himalaya, Tibet, and as far as the Sayan Mountains on the Mongolian-Russian border; and in elevation from 1800 m to 5400 m. They are extremely shy and hard to spot, and as such not well known. It is believed there are about 200 in Ladakh. Other cats in Ladakh are even rarer than the snow leopard: the lynx (ee), numbering only a few individuals, and the Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat. The Tibetan wolf (shangku) is the greatest threat to the livestock of the Ladakhis and as such is the most persecuted. There are only about 300 wolves left in Ladakh. There are also a very few brown bears (drenmo / tret) in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The red fox (watse) is common, and Tibetan sand fox (watse) has recently been discovered in this region.

Among smaller animals, marmots (pheya) are common; you can even sometimes see them from the road, although they do not look very different from the marmots common to other mountainous areas of the world. There are also plenty of hares (ribong), and several types of voles and pika (zabra).

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HEMIS NATIONAL PARK

Hemis National Park (or Hemis High Altitude National Park) is a high altitude national park in the eastern region of Ladakh. World famous for being the best place to see the snow leopard in the wild, it is believed to have the highest density of snow leopards of any protected area in the world. The park is home to a number of species of endangered mammals and birds. 16 mammal species and 73 bird species have been recorded in the park so far.

Prominent wildlife

Notable Mammals - Snow Leopard, Tibetan Wolf, Eurasian Brown Bear, Red Fox,  Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Shapu (Ladakhi Urial), and more.

Notable Birds - Golden Eagle, Lammergeier Vulture, Himalayan Griffon Vulture and the Himlayan Snowcock

Elevation: 3500 m to 6930 m | Location: Eastern Ladakh

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CHANGTHANG WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary (or the Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary) is situated  in the high altitude Tibetan Plateau. It is the second-largest nature reserve in the world. Covering an area of 496,000 square kilometres, with an average altitude of 4,500m, the topography is formed of deep gorges and vast plateaus. There are around 11 lakes and 10 marshes in the Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary, and the majestic Indus River flows through the sanctuary, dividing it into two parts.

Prominent Wildlife

Notable Mammals - Wild yak, Tibetan wild ass or kiang, Himalayan blue sheep or Bharal, Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Mongolian gazelle  and Tibetan antelope or chiru, Snow leopards, Tibetan wolves, Turkestan lynx and Tibetan blue bears

Notable Birds - Black-necked crane,  Brown-headed gull,  Brahminy duck (Ruddy Sheldrake), Bar-headed goose

Elevation: 4,300 m to 5,800 m | Location: Eastern Ladakh

 

The ibex is found in high craggy terrain and numbers several thousand in Ladakh: trekkers often spot them. The bharal or "blue sheep" (napo) is even more common. The Tibetan urial sheep (shapo) is a rare goat found at lower elevations. They are now rare, numbering about one thousand. The Tibetan argali sheep (nyan) is a relative of the Marco Polo sheep of the Pamirs. Impressive animals with huge horizontal curving horns, they are extremely rare in Ladakh, numbering only a couple hundred. The habitat of the extremely rare Tibetan gazelle (gowa) is near the Tibetan border in southeastern Ladakh. The musk deer (lhawa) has not been seen in Ladakh for decades if not generations.

Early in the 20th century, the Tibetan antelope (chiru) was seen in herds of thousands, but they are vanishingly rare now. It has been hunted for its fine under-wool (Urdu: shahtoosh, Ladakhi: tsoskul), which must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. This shahtoosh is valued in South Asia for its light weight and warmth, but more than anything else, as a status symbol. Owning or trading in shahtoosh is now illegal in most countries.

The Tibetan wild ass (kyang) is one animal that visitors can expect to see from the comfort of a vehicle, if they take a jeep tour on the Changthang. Favouring the rolling grasslands of this area, their natural curiosity makes them fairly easy to spot, despite the relatively low numbers, about 1500 individuals.


Stok Palace Heritage Hotel has exclusive tie-ups with the best local partners to ensure that our guests have the best experience while in Ladakh.