Ladakh is home to several rare and endangered species of mammals. Ladakh also has a very rich diversity of wild sheep and goats. About 200 Snow leopards,an endangered species are believed to live in Ladakh. There are a few Lynx in Ladakh's wilder areas and also the Pallas”cats. Among smaller animals, marmots are common. Hemis National Park is very famous for wild animals. One can spot the Ibex,Blue Sheep, Shapo (Ladakh Urial), Tibetan Argali, Red fox, and Marmot etc.
Common Name : Asiatic Ibex
The Ibex similar to the wild Goat. It has a long ridged horns curved. The dense and short coat is brownish above with a bluish tinge under parts. Back of legs and tips of the tail is whitish. Females have thin parallel horns.
The animal lives in herds. Females males lives in separate groups but they come together in breeding season. They prefer high altitude pastures in the rocky slopes, and step open hill sides. They don’t migrate to lower heights in winter and prefer steep slopes where snow does not gather. They normally rest during the whole day and graze in the morning and evening. The animal is very shy and alert.
Status and Distribution :
Asiatic Ibex is distributed throughout the mountains of Central Asia from Alti to Western Himalaya, Kashmir, Ladakh, Baltistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, to Kumaon in Uttrakhand. InLadakh it’s a common resident throughout the central and southern part at an elevation of 3500 to 5200m. The estimated population in ladakh is around 6000. In Ladakh the best place to spot Asiatic Ibex are Kanji near Lamayuru, Changla, and Nubra Shayok valleys.
Scientific Name : Capra Ibex Sibirica
Local Name : Skin (Male) Danmo (Female)
Size : Body length 130-160 cm
Weight : 40 to 90 kg.
Common Name : Blue sheep - Bharal
Bharal is placed between sheep and goats as it’s not a true sheep. The coat is of grayish blue color which becomes red brown in summer. The large rounded horns are directed up and sideward and in males while females have shorter, straighter horns. Herbs, shrubs, and grasses constitute the food of this animal.
In Summer most of the time it stays between snow line and the tree line (4700m to 5000m) they like high altitude pastures rocky slopes. However they descend down to 3800m in winter. The males and the female forms different groups only stay together during the breeding season.
Status and Distribution : Best areas to spot this animal in Ladakh are Hemis National Park, Chumathang Mahe region, Rupshu, Changthang including Tsokar, Puga, Tsomoriri & Hanle.
Scientific Name : Pseudois Nayaur Nayaur
Local Name : Napo
Size : Body length 120-160 cm, shoulder Height 10-20 cm.
Weight : 60 to 70 kg.
Common Name : Tibetan Antelope - Chiru
Stzos is famous for the finest wool called Shahtoosh means the king of wools. Its color is light brown, with whitish under parts. The upper and lower limbs are both striped with chocolaty lines. Males have long slender horns which are slightly curved forward. The snout is swollen the body is covered with dense wool which is shed during summer. The high altitude adaptation is manifested in the form of inflated snout. Each nostril in the inflated nose has a sac to assist in breathing rarefied air at higher altitudes. The animal feeds on herbs and grasses.
Chiru is a shy and wary animal inhabiting high altitude prairies and steppes. It lives in large herds which consist of female, young and sub adults. The males, which normally stay separated, join these herds during the breeding season. They dig out shallow depressions with their hooves and rest in these depressions during mid day. The Chiru graze in the morning and afternoon. The animal when in danger runs fast and is very difficult to approach. The rutting takes place during the winter (December-January) and young are born in May or June.
Distribution in Ladakh :
The Tibetan Antelope lives at a height of 3660-5500 m, inhabiting the world’s most climatically hostile region. The Chiru in India is distributed in northern and north eastern Ladakh. The total estimated population in Ladakh is between 250-300 animals. Daulat Beig Oldi (DBO) in the Karakoram range and Changchenmo valley in Leh are the typical areas of encounter within Indian limits. Status: Chiru is one of the most threatened animals endemic to Central Asia. Its population is declining throughout its range. Its wool was being collected in China after killing the animals, smuggled into India and transported to Kashmir where it was used in weaving fi ne quality shahtoosh shawls. The Chiru is placed under the List of endangered animals. About 20000 animals are poached annually throughout its range and the estimated population is less than 75000 animals throughout its range.
Scientific Name : Pantholops Hodgsoni
Local Name: Stzos
Size : Body length 120-150 cm
Weight : 30 to 40 kg.
Common Name : Ladakh Urial
Ladakh Urial is smallest of all the wild sheep. It is also known as Red sheep. Urial has three subspecies viz., Afghan, Punjab and Ladakh Urial. Ladakh Urial is endemic to Ladakh. The horns are back curved, outturned, well wrinkled and slender. The tips of the horns, in Ladakh Urial, point forward. The colour of the body in adult males is copper red. Under parts, lower legs, tail and chin are whitish along with a blackish lateral line. The adult male has a dark ruff from throat to breast. The winter coat is shed with the onset of summer. Males are heavier and larger while females are smaller with shorter horns. Males have a black and white saddle patch.
Habitat & Behavior :
The Ladakh Urial is a very wary and agile animal and referred to as low country sheep. The animal lives in herds. Males and females mostly stay in separate herds. The animal normally inhabits steep, grassy mountain slopes between 3000 to 4000 m. In winter the Urial moves to lower slopes. They rest during mid day and graze in the morning and evening. The males in breeding season visit several herds.
Distribution in Ladakh :
Ladakh Urial has a very restricted distribution. This subspecies is endemic to Ladakh. Its distribution is along the major valleys of the rivers Indus and Shyok. As these valleys are heavily populated this brings this species into direct confl ict with humans. The total estimated population of this species in Ladakh is about 1500 individuals. Its number is declining drastically due to disturbance and habitat loss. As per reports it has been exterminated from several areas and survives only in small isolated populations. The Urial is best sighted in areas surrounding Fotu La, Nindum and between Lamayuru, Rizong and Wanla. In Kargil district the animal is reported from Junkar range and between Chiktan and Jukshu. The population is showing a declining trend. The animal is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals and comes under Appendix I in the CITES and Schedule I of the Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.
Scientific Name : Ovis Vignei
Local Name: Shapo, Sha
Size : Body length 110-150 cm, Shoulder Height 70-90 cm
Weight : 35 to 90 kg.
Common Name : Tibetan Argali
Tibetan Argali is the largest of all wild sheep. There are eight subspecies of the Argali of which two occur in India viz., the Nyan and Marco Polo sheep. The Nyan resembles an antelope in build with long legs and a massive body. The coat is light brown and darker on the shoulders whereas the rump, throat, chest, belly and inner sides of legs are white. Males have creamy ruffs on their necks. The horns in males are massive, wrinkled and never exceed a single circle. Females have characteristic horns. Winter coat in both the sexes is paler.
Argali live in groups which are sexually separated outside breeding season. They prefer high altitude open plains and hills between 3660-4575 m. They rarely descend below 4500 m. They feed on herbs, grasses, and sedges. The life span is reported to be about ten to thirteen years. They feed early in the morning and in evening and rest during the day. The animal prefers dry spots on the stony slopes and avoids damp snow. Mating begins in November-December. Females attain sexual maturity at 2 years of age. During rutting season males engage in intense fights.
Distribution in Ladakh :
Nyan has a very limited and patchy distribution in India. In Ladakh it is distributed mainly in the eastern part of Changthang region. Most of its habitat falls along the international border with China. Its population in Ladakh is estimated to be about 200 to 300 animals. The animal can be best sighted in Khemmer catchment near Gya and Miru, upper Rumbak valley, northern slopes towardsTaklang-La and above Tsokar basin.
Scientific Name : Ovis Ammon Hodgsoni
Local Name : Rrnyan
Size : Body length 130-190 cm, Shoulder Height 90-110 cm
Weight : Up to 100 kg (Male)
Common Name : Tibetan Wild Ass
Tibetan Wild Ass was earlier regarded by some as a raceof the Asiatic Wild Ass (Khur). Now it is recognized as a separate species. Found in Indian Trans-Himalaya there are two subspecies of Kiang viz, Western Kiang (E.k.kiang) in Ladakh and parts of Spiti (Himachal) and the Southern Kiang (E.k.polydon) in Sikkim. Kiang has a massive head with powerful body supporting a short black-brown erect mane. It has a narrow mid-dorsal strip without a whitish border. The longish tail ends in long black hair tuft. The hooves are large as in horses. It is reddish-brown on the back and white on the belly. The sexes are alike.
The Kiang occupies high biotopes in Trans-Himalayan cold desert often near marshes or wetlands between 4000 and 5200 m. It lives in groups of sexually separated herds. The Kiang grazes throughout the day. On sensing danger the herd will fl ee very fast. Often a male keeps watch of the herd from an elevated place and alarms the others by joining the herd.
Distribution in Ladakh :
Kiang is a common resident throughout eastern and northern Ladakh. The animal is best seen in Rupshu and Changthang region, including Tsomoriri, Hanle, Chumur, Chushul, Tsokar and upper Markha valley. The estimated number of Kiang in Ladakh is between 1500 and 2000. Increasing developmental activities has pushed this animal to a few remote valleys. They are considered as competitor to the livestock of locals. This has brought this animal in direct confl ict with nomadic herders. Kiang is listed under Appendix II of CITES, under Schedule I of the Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 and as Vulnerable under IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals.
Scientific Name : Equus Kiang Kiang
Local Name : Shkiang
Size : Body length 210-230 cm, Shoulder Height 140 cm
Weight : 250-380 kg
Common Name : Snow Leopard
Smaller in size than a common leopard, the Snow Leopard is one of the most beautiful cats of the world. Its fur is very luxuriant, soft and pearl grey. It is the king of snow capped mountains and is adapted to survive in some of the harshest and most diffi cult environmental conditions. The head, nape and lower parts of limbs have dark-grey spots. Body and tail is covered with pale rosettes. Under parts are white and unmarked. The thick, furry tail is almost 1/3 of the body length and is wrapped around the body to keep it warm. The sexes are alike.
Habitat & Behavior : The Snow Leopard is nocturnal and very elusive. They are found singly, inhabiting the most inaccessible terrain of rugged mountains, preferably steep terrain broken by cliffs, ridges and gullies. Due to its camoufl age and secretive habits it is very difficult to spot. Due to its ability to disappear in front of the eyes of the observer it is also called ‘grey ghost’ by locals. Due to well developed hind limbs and chest muscles it can jump up to 6meters. The male are territorial and mark their territories with urine, feces and scraps. It is able to kill prey three times its weight. The two most common preys are Blue Sheep and Asiatic Ibex. Small prey includes marmot, pika, hares, other small rodents and game birds. Due to scarcity of natural prey they also kill livestock. It feeds on the carcass over a period of three to four days. In February and March, during its breeding season, it is also reported to feed on a shrub, Myricaria germanica.
Distribution in Ladakh :
The Snow Leopard is found in the mountainous region of Central Asia and has been recorded from parts of Russia, Mongolia, China, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and north-east range over the Pamir, Tienshan and Altai mountains. In India, it is found throughout the alpine zone of the main Himalayan range. It is reported from Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. It is encountered throughout Ladakh, mostly in the south and central regions between 3000 and 5000 m. In Ladakh it can be best sighted within Hemis National Park and Zanskar valley. Its estimated population throughout Ladakh region is around 250-350 animals. Throughout its entire range the estimated population of Snow Leopard is 7000 individuals. It is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals, under Appendix I in CITES and under Schedule I in the Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.
Scientific Name : Uncia Uncia
Local Name : Rrschan
Size :Body Length 100-110 cm, Shoulder Height 63 cm
Weight : 35-50 kg
Common Name : Lynx, Himalayan Lynx
Lynx has a stocky body and strong limbs. The body colour is reddish-grey with spots over the upper limbs. Hind legs are longer than the fore legs. The most distinctive character is long tufts of hairs on the tips of the erect and triangular-shaped ears. It has a short and black-tipped tail. The beard-like ruff around the face is prominent. It is considered as one of the rare cat species in Ladakh.
Lynx inhabits areas at an altitude of 4250 and 4575 m in the Himalaya and descends up to 1525 m in winter. Dense vegetation of Caragana, Hippophae and willow are its preferred habitat. It is an excellent climber. Though known as a loner, groups of up to four can be seen occasionally. The Lynx is very secretive and elusive. It is diurnal in habit but more active during dusk and dawn. It hunts marmots, hare, young ones of Bharal and even domestic sheep and goat.
Distribution in Ladakh :
The Lynx is distributed from Europe, to the east of Asia including China, North America, with an exceptional concentration along a strip across Russia from Ural mountains to the Pacifi c. It is also recorded from Tibet, Gilgit, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. In Ladakh it is reported from Hunder and Panamik area. It has also been observed near Gya-Miru area of Leh. The Lynx population has declined due to habitat loss and hunting for its fur which is still in demand in the fashion market. In western and Central Europe it has become extinct. The Lynx is listed under Appendix II of CITES, and Schedule I of Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978. According to a report, there may be 50 to 70 individuals of Lynx in Ladakh region.
Scientific Name : Lynx isabellina - Felis lynx - Lynx lynx
Local Name : Eeh
Size : Body Length 85-90 cm, Shoulder Height 60 cm.
Weight : 20-26 kg
Common Name : Pallas’s Cat
The Pallas’s Cat resembles a small domestic cat in size. It has a broad head, low forehead, low-set widely parted ears and long thick tail with black tip. Its coat gives frosted appearance due to white tips of its hair. The body is compact with low limbs. The colour of the body is silver grey. The limbs and lower back have black bands. The fur on its under parts and tail is comparatively longer than that on the rest of the body. The cat feeds on small mammals like pika and rodents. It also feeds occasionally on birds. The male is slightly heavier than female. The cat attains sexual maturity afterone year.
Its habitat is mainly located in the vicinity of pika habitat in arid fl at grasslands. The cat is seen solitarily. Very little is know about its ecology. The cat prefers jagged and rocky terrain at high altitude. The cat is generally active from dusk to dawn with rare sightings during day. For hiding and resting it uses rock crevices, small caves and burrows of fox and marmots. Due to its habit of moving low on the ground and its elusive nature, its sighting is very diffi cult. The gestation period is 66 to 74 days. The cat breeds once in a year delivering 3 to 6 kittens during April-May. It makes a hissing snarl when aroused.
Distribution & Status:
Pallas’s Cat, in India, is found only in eastern Ladakh at an elevation between 3000 to 4800 m. The Pallas’s Cat is represented by three races and is distributed throughout Tibet, France, and Pakistan. This cat was hunted extensively for its fur. This cat has been placed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Appendex II of CITES.The Pallas’s Cat in Ladakh is best seen in Rupshu/ Changthang area. The subspecies found in Ladakh is Otocolobus manul nigripectus.
Scientific Name : Otocolobus manul/ Felis manul
Local Name : Trakshan
Size : Body Length 50-60 cm, Shoulder Height 30 cm
Weight : 02-05 kg
Common Name : Wolf, Tibetan Wolf
There are two sub species of wolf in India. The onefound in Ladakh or Trans-Himalaya is Tibetan Wolf (Canis lupus chanku). Its fur colour varies from sandy-brown to grey-brown, darkgrey or black. Under parts are buff in colour. The black-tipped tail is less than half the body length. The winter coat is extremely thick and shaggy. The wolf has strong body, thin legs and V-shaped head.
Habitat & Behavior :
The wolf prefers bare and open areas. Caves, crevices in rocks, and burrows in sand are used as shelter. They descend down to valleys in winter and ascend to the snowline in summer, migrating with the game. The animal is usually seen singly but some time encountered in packs. The wolf is nocturnal but also active during day. The animal preys on pika, hare, rodents and birds. The wolf prefers bare and open areas. Caves,crevices in rocks, and burrows in sand are used as shelter. They descend down to valleys in winter and ascend to the snowline in summer, migrating with the game. The animal is usually seen singly but some time encountered in packs. The wolf is nocturnal but also active during day. The animal preys on pika, hare, rodents and birds.
They also prey on cattle when suffi cient wild prey is not available or when they are near human settlements. The hierarchy is maintained by the pack. The animals move over a large territory and the territory is marked by the pack by urine and feces at prominent spots. The whole pack feeds together on the prey. The animal is very shy and secretive and runs away in human presence.
Distribution in Ladakh :
The wolf in Ladakh is mainly distributed in eastern and northern region between 3000 and 5000 m. In Trans-Himalayan region wolf is considered to make maximum killing of livestock amongst all predators. This has led to human-wolf confl ict and is considered as a big menace. Killing and trapping of wolf takes place by locals in retaliation. The estimated population in Ladakh region is 300-350 animals. It is best encountered in Rupshu and Changthang plains, to some extent in Markha, Upper Suru and Zanskar. The wolf is listed under Appendix I in CITES and under Schedule I in Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Scientific Name : Canis Lupus
Local Name : Schanku
Size : Body Length 95-140 cm, Shoulder Height 80 cm
Weight : 18-27 kg
Common Name : Red Fox or Hill Fox
The name RedFox is after its coat which isreddish in colour. The under parts are white. The body is covered with long and silky fur with dense under wool. The tip of the tail is white. Below each eye there is a dark spot. The limbs are slender. The pointed ears on their upper parts are black. The sexes look alike.
The Red Fox is not a social animal. It is found singly or seen in monogamous pairs. It inhabits sandy wastes, riverbeds and sand dunes in semi-arid regions. The animal is active by night. However, it can also be seen during dusk and dawn. It rests in crevices and burrows during the day time. Often considered as cunning, the fox is a very shy and wary animal. The animal feeds on birds, rodents, marmots and mouse-hares. The diet also includes berries.
Distribution in Ladakh :
Considered as most widespread, the Red Fox is a common animal throughout Ladakh. It is reported from valley bottoms up to 5000 m. It is distributed throughout Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. The animal was introduced into North America and Australia. Within Indian limits the Red Fox is found in Ladakh, Kashmir, and up to Sikkim in the Himalaya. The animal throughout its range is hunted for its luxurious coat. Its population is declining. In Ladakh the Red Fox is best encountered in Suru, Markha, Nubra, Zanskar Indus valley, and high altitude slopes of Changthang and Rupshu region.
Scientific Name : Vulpes Vulpes
Local Name : Watse
Size : Body Length 50-70 cm, Shoulder Height 35 cm
Weight : Upto 5kg
Common Name : Himalayan Marmot
Two species of marmots are found in India. Both the species of marmot viz., Himalayan and Long-tailed Marmot are present in Ladakh. The Himalayan Marmot is well adapted to burrow life. The body is squat, limbs are short and the tail is very short. The head is triangular in shape with small neck, eyes have black rings. The whiskers are long. The colour of the body and limbs is pale tawny, much mixed with black on the upper parts. The face and the terminal portion of the tail are dark brown. There are six pairs of mammae extending from the axial to the groin.
The animal lives in colonies in the higher biotopes in lush meadows and open grassy stone-strewn slopes. The animal lives in excavated burrows which are also used for hibernation. The territory is marked by a secretion which is secreted from chin glands. The animal is active by day and feeds in the morning and afternoon in summer. They go into dens during night.The burrows have 2 to 3 entrances and are 20 to 100 cm long, ending in large chambers. The animal often stands on its hind limbs for observation. On sensing danger the animal gives a screaming call. All family members rush to their burrows on listening to this call. A foul stinky substance is ejected from the anal gland on being threatened. The animal goes in for hibernation for about 6 to 7 months in its burrow during winter. The entrances of the burrows are plugged with stones, grass and soil. During the hibernation the metabolism of the animal slows down. With the coming of spring it emerges from the burrow. The animal feeds on grasses, roots, leaves and seeds of various plants. They usually sit outside their burrows to bask in the sun. The female is receptive for one day only and mating takes place with several males. The gestation period is 33 to 34 days. The litter size is 2 to 7 offsprings. The offsprings are born naked and blind and open their eyes after three weeks.
Distribution in Ladakh :
In Ladakh the Himalayan Marmot is a common resident living between 4000 to 5000 m. It is mainly found in central-south, eastern and northern Ladakh. Upper Markha valley in Hemis National Park, Changthang plains including Tsokar and Rupshu, Puga, Tsomoriri are the best locations for its sighting. The sub species is distributed through Himalayan range to South-Western East Asia. Natural predators include Snow Leopard, wolf, fox, wild-dog, bear and Golden Eagle. It is a threatened species and is killed for meat and fur. The construction of road through its habitat has disturbed this species. The labourers engaged for construction of road also kill this animal for meat
Scientific Name : Marmota Himalayana
Local Name : Phiya
Size :Body Length 58-60 cm, Tail Length 13-15 cm
Weight : 4-5 kg (spring), 8 kg (autumn)
Common Name : Eurasian Otter
Otters are adapted to aquatic life. The Eurasian Otter has a rough water proof coat. Tail is thick and muscular. Muzzle is short with sensitive whiskers. The limbs are short and strong. The feet are fi ve-toed, webbed and provided with retractile claws. The hind legs are longer than fore legs. The colour of the coat on dorsal surface is brown while the under parts are lighter. The hairs of the muzzle terminate above the naked nose in an angular or zigzag line. On the land the animal appears arch-backed.
The animal establishes its territory in mountain streams or fresh water lakes. The animal is nocturnal and is very shy. It often stands on hind limbs for observation. Its presence can be recorded from its tracks, feces, fish bones and scales found near its den. The animal secretes oil from its sebaceous glands and applies it on its skin to keep it water proof and for protection against the cold water of the streams. The animal migrates to lower valleys during winter. The sexes are alike. The recorded longevity is 12-15 years. Only one litter is produced per year. The gestation period is 60 to 65 days. The litter consists of 1 to 3 cubs born in dens dug out amidst rocks and boulders. The mating takes place in water. The female cares for offspring till they attain the age of one year.
Distribution in Ladakh :
In Ladakh this animal may best be found up to 3700 m along the Indus River and its tributaries including Rumtse and lower Zanskar. It is also reported from Kargil area, Suru and Dras valleys. The animal is represented by 10 races and is the most widely distributed otter species in the world. It is found from North Africa and Europe throughout Palearctic region to East Asia. The animal is hunted for its fur and medicinal value.
Scientific Name : Lutra lutra
Local Name : Churram
Size : Body Length 60-80 cm, Shoulder Height 20-25 cm
Weight : 5 kg
Common Name : Woolly Hare
The fur of this animal is thick and curly. Tail is short and bushy. Hind legs are long. The ears are black tipped. Eyes have a pale eye ring. The colour of the coat is brownish-grey. Inner sides of the legs, belly and tail are white. The sexes look alike, female is larger than male.
This hare is an animal of mountain slopes and meadows. Its habitat constitutes open, bush-strewn sandy plains. The animal is encountered singly. It is active during dusk and dawn. It spends the day lying in shallow dug out depressions. It also uses burrows of marmots. The eye sight and hearing capacity are excellent. The animal feeds on herbs, plants, roots and grasses. The predator of this animal includes wolf, Lynx, Snow Leopard, Wild Dog, fox and Golden Eagle. The animal is not too shy of humans.
Distribution in Ladakh :
In Ladakh the Woolly Hare is a common resident of north, east and southern regions found between 4000 and 5400 m. It can be encountered best in Rupshu and Changthang plains, Tsokar, Hanle, Chushul and to lesser extent in Markha and Rumbak valley of Hemis National Park. This animal is represented by 5-7 races in the Tibetan plateau. Not much is known about this animal. Its taxonomic status is still ambiguous. The subspecies described here is L.o. oiostolus.
Scientific Name : Lepus Oiostolus
Local Name : Riyong
Size :Body Length 40-50 cm, Shoulder Height 20-25 cm
Weight : 2.5-3 kg