At a deadly altitude where a man can hardly breathe the animal species of Ladakh have proven a terrific ecological adaptation and flourishment. This wildlife of Ladakh is pretty interesting in the terms of their existence in the remote Ladakh regions as well as their ecological specialization. One can be surprised as to know how these various animal species can exist in Ladakh which virtually has no natural forests, except some riverside areas and valleys where some greenery is found. In the Alpine zone, near the snow-line, various herbaceous plants, willow and wild rose have beautifully covered the higher and lower mountain slopes.
Animal Species in Ladakh:
This cold desert of the world is said to have quite difficult environment that won’t make you surprised if you don’t to see any sign of wildlife. But the wildlife in Ladakh is surprisingly coping up with the extremes of the geographical conditions. And not only that they are, from the centuries, living on the less vegetation, poor shelter and bitter cold in this rocky terrain. Some animal species migrate to the lower regions of Ladakh like ungulates(mammals with hooves or large toenails) where as marmots and brown bears hibernate opt for rather than bothering to move. Also at such a high altitude these Ladakh species get victim of mountain sickness due to lack of enough oxygen. But the nature also has given them a kind of protection in the form of their shaggy coat like hairy skin to fight against the severe cold. These different kind of animals are the natural treasure of Ladakh which consist of unseen species of double hump camel, yak or wild ox, Tibetan sheep, urial or smallest sheep, bharal or blue sheep, ibex and snow leopard. There are around 33 different species of animals found in the Ladakh wildlife. Some of them are given below.
Double hump camel: Double Hump camel is the most attractive animal come to see in the Nubra valley of Ladakh. The double hump camels are shorter and stouter as compared to their single hump counterparts. The double humps camels are also plump and pliable and collapse in winter when food is scarce. Double hump camel often used in the famous adventure tour in Ladakh and visitors don’t miss to join the double hump camel safari during their visit. People of Ladakh earlier made their use only in trade purpose to carry load spices, fruits, clothes; but later double hump camel has become an essential part of travel and transport and today double hump camel meant to be a pleasant camel ride in Ladakh.
Yak or wild Ox: Another name of this Ladakhi Ox is, Dong. ‘Yak’ is an English word or this heavy and long hairy ox which is found
only in the high and colder mountain regions. It is a bulky animal of weight about a tone and curved wide and long horns. Dong or Yak usually spends their summer time in the altitudelike 6,000 feet and return to the marshes, lakes and lower valley and in the winter season.
Tibetan sheep: Ladakh folks called it Nyan and it is known in the world as the largest and extremely magnificent wild sheep. Nyan, also known as the Great Tibetan sheep found in 200 of numbers in the absolute eastern part of Ladakh. Nyan’s horns are thick by 145 cm. This great Tibetan sheep is the inhabitant of high mountains with 4,500 meters altitude.
Urial or smallest sheep:Probably in the smallest sheep in the world around. Urial is called as the Shapu (Ovis orientalis) in the native language of Ladakh. It is as tall in height as long as its horns are. Urial has horns with the weight of 85 kg. and thick up to 99mm. Look like a mountain goat, urial
prefers to live in the grassy mountain slopes. Like other sheep their breeding system starts in the
month of Dec-Jan and in around the month of May these species give birth to their young ones. But unfortunately, nowadays Urials are in danger because of they are being killed largely by hunters. This is the reason that their number decreasing rapidly, and there’s hardly 500 left of them in Ladakh.
Bharal or Napu: is the very common and wide spread of the sheep in the Ladakh Valley.
Bharal or the blue sheep, also famous as Napu in the regional language, found at an altitude 6,000 meters. They graze in huge herds on the rich and long grasses of the alpine meadows, in summer. Their brownish-gray coloring provides them with protective camouflage. And as they often stand motionless they can be extremely difficult to spot out but, when alarmed, bharal move or run swiftly to safety. Bharal seems to contain some morphological quality of both sheep and goats.
Ibex (Ladakhi: skin) : Ibexes are another species of wild goat and was earlier regarded as the mystical animal. Being beautiful in appearance they sport a pair of finely curved spiral horns that could measure as much as 147 cm. Ibex loves to move usually in herds of 10-16. Ibex also known as a good climber. Its climbing ability is such that it has been observed standing on the sheer face of a dam to lick the stonework to obtain mineral salts.
Snow Leopard (Ladakhi shan) : is one of the rare and beautiful wild animal which is found in Ladakh. The remarkable snow leopard is an inhabitant of the high mountainous regions of Central Asia. In India, it can be spotted in the states that lie along the northern Indian border, like Jammu & Kashmir, and other Himalayan regions. Being an endangered species, efforts to save the snow leopards are running on the major scales. Efforts are also running to increase their population through the improvement of their breeding system. The snow leopard in Ladakh is a year-round, high altitude animal; in only very few places can it descend below 3000 m and in practice there are only a few records below 3200 m; at the upper limit, there are records up to 5400 m and no doubt it ranges higher when necessary, limited only by the presence or absence of prey animals In winter it spends more time at lower altitudes and most attacks on domestic animals take place then. Its habitat consists of alpine and sub-alpine steppe and semi-desert. The snow leopard is mainly active at night, but local people report several sightings during the day.
Bird Species in Ladakh: One can be surprised to find that there are more than 357 bird species found in Ladakh valley. Ladakh, dotted with some of the world’s most unique and spectacular wetlands, also holds the distinction of being the only 11known breeding ground of Black-necked Crane (Grus igricollis) in India. Most of these wetlands are of glacial origin and remain frozen from December to March. An unmatched tent dwelling tribe, the Changpas, move around the wetlands of Ladakh in search of pasturelands.
Several species of birds also use these wetlands as their breeding grounds, such as Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis), Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunicephalus), Great-crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus).