Ladakh is one of the favourite destination for wild-life enthusiasts for this place is home to many exotic, as well as endangered animal varieties as well as plant species. Hemis National Park is located in Ladakh and is one of the few high altitude national parks in the country. It is also the second largest national park in the nation and only one of its kind in the Himalayan region. It is considered as one, of the best places to see the snow leopard. There are around 73 species of birds, most of which are migratory in nature. Here is a list of few exotic wildlife animals of Leh Ladakh.
1) Snow Leopard
A threatened species on IUCN red list, due to its declining population, Snow Leopard is found only in the mountain ranges of Central and Southern Asia. Globally, it is said, there are just 10,000 snow leopards left. Ladakh is known as the Capital of Snow Leopards. The ideal period to get hold of a view of these leopards s from March to October. The significant spots are Hemis National Park, Matho, Skindyang village, Ule Phu, and Ney Phu. It is difficult to spot a Snow Leopard for they camouflage brilliantly with the surrounding ice. The time they come out is towards the winter, hunting for food.
2) Bactrian Camel
A Bactrian camel is found in abundance in Central Asia. It has two humps n its back, unlike the usual camels which are single-humped ones. The name of the camel comes from the place Bactria, an ancient name given to the region covering Afghanistan. The peculiarity of this camel species that they have high endurance for extreme weathers be it hot or cold. For long Bactrian camels were used by travelers across Asia, for traveling as well as the carrier of goods. The place called Hunder in Nubra valley in Ladakh is a center of these animals and also provide an opportunity for a camel trek.
3) Wild Yak
An extensive and comprehensive yak found in the Himalayan region it is an endemic species. The animal is listed in the IUCN vulnerable list. They are the second largest bovid. It is estimated that there are just 10 thousand Wild Yaks left in the world. They could be found mostly at treeless uplands or in alpine tundra. The predation by Snow Leopard as well as Tibetan wolf is the major crisis that Wild Yaks are facing. They could be seen in herds. They also face the threat of poaching. It spends its summer at heights above 6000 meters and comes down at the time of winter. Wild Yaks are left only at a few places, one of them being Ladakh.
4) Himalayan Marmot
Marmots resemble squirrels in appearance. Mostly they are found in the mountainous region and live in burrows. In case of frigid climate, they hibernate and will not come out of these burrows. Marmots are as big as domesticated cats. It is often said that Marmots dig their burrows where there is a presence of Gold. It is tough to spot marmots for they always hide inside their burrows. One place where they could be found in abundance is Khardungla pass. They always come in groups, and if you have a pack of bananas to spare for them, they might stay for a while. It is found in abundance and is on the Least Concerned list of IUCN.
5) Himalayan Brown Bear
The commonest of all bears, brown bear could be found in Eurasia and Asia in abundance. It is listed as an animal with Least Concern in IUCN list, though at many places it has become extinct at a local level. The total number of brown bears are considered to be 2 lakh across the world. However, Himalayan Brown bears calls for serious concern as it is critically endangered. Himalayan brown bears are kept in critically endangered list by IUCN. Poaching is one threat they are facing. Brown bear is found in four major areas in Leh, which is Suru, Zanskar, Kargil and Drass.
6) Himalayan Lynx
There are four species of Lynx population one of which is the Eurasian Lynx. The Himalayan Lynx is a subspecies of Eurasian Lynx. Lynx is carnivores and predates on birds, rodents, and foxes. Other than Leh, Himalayan Lynx cat is also found in parts of Pakistan and Nepal. They are very silent and hence difficult to spot. They are generally active during dawn, dusk and all throughout the night. During the day they will not come outside and remains inside their dens. Hemis National Park is known for its Lynx population. It is also found in abundance and is listed as ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN list.
7) Himalayan Red Fox
Most widespread foxes, Red foxes are listed under ‘Least Concern’ by IUCN. They are reddish brown in colour with a white patch on the tip of their tail. It sheds its fur twice a year. Once in spring, which is when they get shorter hair and the next during winter to get longer and thicker hair. The peculiarity of these foxes are that they are blind at the time of birth and gains eyesight when they are 5 weeks old. Himalayan Red foxes are seen in the coldest and deserted tracts of Ladakh, Lahul, and Spiti among others. There are two kinds of Himalayan foxes- the hill fox and northern desert fox.
8) Ladakh Urial
Urial is a kind of Sheep. Unlike the normal sheeps, it has a reddish-brown fur. They also have large horns which curls to the outside, and this could be as long as 100cm. They are considered as a vulnerable species by IUCN list, as their habitats are being destructed by human invasion. They are often found in between Chitral and Drosh and near the Gurudwara in Leh. It is also found in between Nubra and Shyok valleys as well as in between Likchey and Khalsi villages. According to a recent research, the global population of Ladakh Urials have reduced to less than 1000 in numbers.
9) Himalayan Musk Deer
Himalayan musk deer is also called as white-bellied musk deer. It comes under the endangered list as per the records of IUCN. They are usually found in high altitudes and lacks antlers. Musk secreted by the male variety of these deer are used for the creation of perfumes and soaps. Musk is the substance that actually helps the deer in attracting its female in order to mate and reproduce. Especially due to this reason, musk deer are exploited. They cannot be spotted during the daytime as they chose to remain under their shelters. They roam around freely but at night. They could be spotted in the mountains of Khoten.
10) Himalayan Blue Sheep
Also called Bharal or Naur this is a species found in abundance in Ladakh region. It is under the least concern list of IUCN. The animal is the major prey for snow leopard. The fur is grey in colour and sheen slightly blue. Unlike many animals mentioned earlier, Bharals are active during the day. There are two major threats that these blue sheep faces, one is poaching and second is competition. Spiti valley is one place wherein Bharals could be found in abundance. Many monasteries in Ladakh tries to conserve this animal by providing it shelter. However, Bharals aren’t generally given shelter for they destruct crops.
11) Himalayan Tahr
Himalayan Tahr is a species of wild goat found in the Indo Tibetan region. It is marked as near threatened by IUCN red list as the population of this species is rapidly declining. It has a pointed tiny ear, small head and big eyes. The female species are shorter than the male. They shed their fur once a year, to adjust with the climatic conditions. It live for around 15 years, and female have a larger life span than the male. They are essentially herbivores Tahr has been introduced by humans to several other locales like Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa for various purposes., Many times, Tahr causes damage to the native flora and fauna. It could be spotted at Nimoo and Stok in the Ladakh region.
12) Himalayan Wolf
This species of wolf is found only in Kashmir and Tibetan region. For long they were considered to a subspecies until recently a difference was found in the mitochondria of its DNA making it a different species altogether. They are considered as a critically endangered species by IUCN Red List. The natives often hunt this wolf for livestock protection. AS per the estimate there are merely 300 Himalayan Wolves left in the entire Himalayan region. They are close relatives of African Golden Wolf. Himalayan Wolf could be found at Tanglang la pass of Ladakh. They are also found at Ladakh and Spiti.
13) Himalayan Ibex
The Himalayan Ibex is considered to be a subspecies of the Siberian Ibex. They have a thick fur in the winter and they shed these fur once in a year usually during summer. They are usually found in a herd of about 50 Ibex. They are herbivores and feed on shrubs, and grasses. Kibber is one place in Himachal to which they come down to, at extreme winter season. It could be found in the mountainous region of Karakoram, Hindukush, and Himalayas.
14) Yellow Wagtail
The western yellow wagtail as it is called is a bird that is found primarily in Europe and Asia. It is known for wagging its tail constantly, hence the name. Wagtails are migratory in nature. And come to Ladakh during winters. These birds are quite small, 5-26 cm long. They have a high pitched voice. It is the blue-headed yellow wagtails and black-headed yellow wagtails that visits Indian sub-continent.
15) Snow Partridge
Snow partridge is widely found in the Tibetan region. The peculiarity of it being the only species under its genus. The upper body is grey in colour and lower half is chestnut coloured. The bills are red in colour. Though there is slight resemblance with Himalayan snowcock and Tibetan snowcock they all are essentially different species. It is hunted by humans, but still there is a considerable amount of population left and hence is not in the threatened list.
16) Himalayan Viper
This poisonous snake is a variety of viper. It is the only snake found in Pakistan. The snake usually comes out of its pit at night. It feeds on rodents, centipedes, and millipedes. The venom is not very harsh, it might cause swelling and pain, and however, it would subside within two to three days. They live near rivers taking shelter next to thick vegetation. It is estimated that over 100 species of snakes are there in Ladakh region.
17) Himalayan Griffon
Himalayan Griffon is a species of vulture. It is one of the two old world vultures, the other being European Griffon Vulture. It is under the nearly threatened category of IUCN Red List. It is the largest as well as the most massive bird to be discovered in the Himalayan range. The facial skin is pale bluish in color. They usually feed on dead domestic or wild Yak. They also eat pine needles, the reason for which is not yet known.
18) Himalayan Golden Eagle
The Himalayan golden eagle is a predatory bird found in Indo Tibetan region. It feeds primarily on snow cock and pigeons and other smaller birds. They have broad blackish brown wings. They could be found in any open landscapes of this mountainous region. There are pale yellow plumes on the back of its head which gave the Golden eagle the name. It is found in abundance and is on the Least Concerned list of IUCN.
19) Himalayan Bearded vulture
The only species under the genus Gypaetus, the bearded vulture, is considered as an old world vulture. It is related to the Egyptian vulture. Till 2014, these vultures were in the least concerned list of IUCN. However, after July 204, it was found out that there is a rapid decline in the population of bearded vultures due to which it was moved to the nearly endangered category. It feeds mainly o bone. IT is found in excess at Ladakh as the wolves, and golden eagle leaves out much bone of its prey upon which the bearded vulture feeds itself. It is now estimated that there are just 500 of them left in Eurasia. The decline in the population happened due to habitat destruction and poison found in the prey upon which it feeds.
20) Black-necked Crane
It is endemic to the Tibetan region and the Himalayas. They are migratory birds. They feed on different kinds of food- carrots, roots, tubers, lizards, earthworms, grasshoppers, etc. to name a few. It is the only high crane species found in the entire world. It was protected by localities for centuries by various customs and practice. They are often found in the wetlands, and the primary threat faced by these birds is wetland destruction. They are winter visitors to Ladakh. China, Bhutan, and India have taken extraordinary measures for the protection of these bird species. Buddhist lamas also try to protect the cranes that are visiting the monasteries.
21) Eurasian Eagle Owl
A species of an eagle owl, considered to be the largest of its species. It is widely distributed and is in the least concern list of IUCN. Its population amounts up to two and a half lakhs worldwide. The owl is black to brownish in color and has orangish eyes. It comes out at night for hunting and prey upon small mammals and birds. It could often be spotted at Hanle and Markha valley in Ladakh.
22) Bar Headed Goose
A pretty bird to look at, bar-headed goose is found in Asia alone. It is grey in color and has black bars on its neck. It is migratory in nature and travels to South Asia during winters. It is also one of the highest flying birds. This peculiarity gives it the name. This is found in the wetlands of Tso Moriri and Tsokar in Ladakh.
23) Tibetan Antelope
Also called as Chiru, it is an endangered species of bovid, which is endemic to Tibetan and Himalayan region. It is estimated that only 75,000 Tibetan antelopes are left. They face the most significant threat from poaching. Shawls are made from the fur of Chiru, and the sole way to obtain the wool is to kill the animal. Almost four antelopes need to be executed for the processing of a single shawl. Shahtoosh shawls are made from its fur.
24) Tibetan Gazelle
Another variety of antelopes found in Tibetan and Himalayan region, Tibetan gazelles are marked in the nearly threatened list by IUCN. The animal is also called as Goa.
Thus Ladakh is home to many exotic breeds of animals and birds which makes it a must place to visit for a wildlife enthusiast.