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Home » Ladakh Tourism » Wildlife in Ladakh

Ladakh Tourism >> Wildlife in Ladakh

Ladakh-Described as "The land where snow never melts and only corn ripens" by its discoverer, Fa-hian, a chinese traveler, who traveled across its inhospitable terrain in 399 A.D. Known for centuries as the 'land of passes' (La-pass; Dacha-land), Ladakh is a mysterious land shrouded in myth and legend and much of its ancient history is known only through the mythology of its people.

Characterised by uneven terrain, rugged landscapes, and snow-swathed mountains which rise to several thousand feet above the surface of earth, its valleys are forbidden. Ladakh is a cold desert with no signs of trees far and wide. Winds blow here at a very high speed and everything is parched by the rarefied dryness of the atmosphere. Scattered here and there, a few narrow fertile valleys provide a clear sparkling air. The limpidity of the atmosphere, in fact, gives the night sky a unique clarity, so full and bright with stars that one feels transported to some ethereal setting, far away from Earth.

This mysterious "land of passes" (La-pass, Dakh-land) stands at a height 4,600 meters in the outer Himalayas with its peaks, ranging from 5,800 to 7,600 meters forming the most striking feature of the area.

The Himalayas, higher than the mightiest mountains anywhere in the world, are clearly the result of a process of folding-a moment of the coastal plates by which one drifting piece of land overrides another. When two such drifting continental pieces collide and wrap, the resultant wrinkles form mountains. This Himalayan massif is believed to be the result of such a collision between the Indian and Asian plates. Consequently, much of the high altitude Himalayan fauna is typical of both the oriental and Palearctic regions.

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.

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(dong)-a wild ox is the largest animal found in Ladakh. and 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.

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
Urial or shapu (Ovis orientalis) is the smallest sheep in the world. Its body, which is just about as tall as its horns usually weighs 85 Kg. and has horns measuring upto 99 cm. These sheep prefer the grassy mountain slopes. The breeding of this species, as is the case with most sheep, 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 easy reach of hunters. Their numbers have been declining rapidly and it is estimated that there are no more than 500 in Ladakh.

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 seems to bear some morphological traits of both sheep and goats.



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Wildlife in Ladakh
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Ladakh Tourism Ladakh Trekking Packages Ladakh Tour Packages Treks in ladakh
About Ladakh
History of Ladakh
Peoples of Ladakh
Culture of Ladakh
How To Reach Ladakh
Festivals of Ladakh
Places of Interest in Ladakh
Trekking Tours of Ladakh
Leh Jeep Safari
Wildlife in Ladakh
Zanskar Trek
Ladakh Monasteries Trek
Manali Ladakh Extended Trek
Nubra Valley Trek
Indus Valley Trek
Markha Valley Trek
Popular Markha Valley Treke
Stok Kangri Expedition
Ladakh Adventure Jeep Safari
Spiti - Ladakh Trek
Mystic Ladakh Tour
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Marvelous Ladakh Tour
The Spirit of Ladakh
Panoramic Ladakh Tour
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Forbidden Ladakh Tour
Manali to Leh Jeep Safari
Ladakh Buddhist Tour
Delhi Leh Air Package
Chadar Ice Trek
Outer to Inner Saraj
Throne of the Gods
Indus Valley Trek
The Classic Markha Valley
Chandra Tal
Ladakh Monastery Trek
Journey to South Zanskar
Trans-Zanskar Expedition
The Passes of Spiti
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Buddha Purnima Festival Tour - Hemis Monastery Festival Tour - Lamayuru Monastery Festival Tour - Phyang Monastery Festival Tour
Takthok Monastery Festival Tour - Ladakh Annual Festival Tour

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