WILDLIFE OF LADAKH

Traditionally in South Asia, animals are usually treated with respect. In Ladakh, especially where the majority of inhabitants are Buddhist, killing of living creatures is considered sinful. Therefore, hunting of animals was never popular in this region, a major reason why the rich natural biodiversity is well preserved. Animals have successfully adapted to the extreme and difficult climate conditions prevailing in the Ladakh region. Generally the fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia , and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau. During summer months, most of the animals are encountered at altitudes up to 5500 m or even higher, whereas during winter they are concentrated at lower elevations down on the floors. Western Ladakh, particularly the Drass, Suru, Zanskar, and lower Indus valleys, primarily hosts oriental mammal and bird species. Central Ladakh and Nubra valley can be considered a transition zone, with oriental but also Central Asian animals, whereas the area east of the Shayok River, Chang-la, Taglang-la to western Rupshu valley, demarcating the border into the eastern region, is primarily dominated by Tibetan species. Such multiple influences result in a surprisingly high biodiversity in Ladakh.

FAUNA OF LADAKH
GEESE AND DUCKS

Grelag Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Common Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Merganser.

CARNIVORES

Snow Leopard, Lynx, Pallas's Cat ,Wolf ,Red Fox, Tibetan Wild Dog, Brown Bear, Stoat, Mountain Weasel, Stone Maten, Eurasian.

UNGULATES

Wild Ass, Musk Deer, Tibetan Gazelle, Tibetan Antelope, Blue Sheep, Ibex, Tibetan Argali, Ladakh Urial.

WOODPECKERS, ROLLERS, KINGFISHERS, AND BEE-EATERS

Eurasian Wryneck, Scaly-bellied Woodpecker, Common Hoopoe, European Roller, Common Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Bee-eater.

CUCKOOS AND SWIFTS

Pied Cuckoo, Eurasian Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, and Fork-tailed Swift.

OWLS, NIGHTJARS, AND PIGEONS

Pallid Scops Owl, Eurasian Owl, Little Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Eurasian Nightjar, Rock Pigeon, Hill Pigeon, Snow Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove.

RAPTORS

Osprey, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Black-shouldered kite, Red Kite, Black Kite, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Lammergeier, Egyptian Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous Vulture, Short-tored Snake Eagle, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Mash Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Sparrow hawk, upland Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Greater Spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Saker Falcon.

GREBES, EGRETS , AND STORKS

Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Black Stork.

SHRIKES AND CORVIDS

Red-backed Shrike, Rufous-tailed Shrikes, Long-tailed Shrike, Grey-Backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike, Black-billed Magpie, Hume's Ground pecker, Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Chough, House Crow, Carrion Crow, Large-billed Crow, Common Raven, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Black Drongo.

THRUSHES, FLYCATCHERS, REDSTARTS, AND WHEATEARS

Brown Dipper, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Tickell's Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird, Dark-throated Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Song Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, Red-throated Flycatcher, White-tailed Ruby throat, Blue throat, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Blue-capped Redstart, Black Redstart, Common Stonechat, Variable Wheatear, Desert Wheater, Isabelline wheatear,

STARLINGS, CREEPERS, TITS, AND SWALLOWS

Brahmini Starling, Rosy Startling, Common Starling, Wall creeper, Bar-tailed Tree creeper, Winter Wren, Fire-capped Tit, Great Tit, Green-backed Tit, Sand Martin, Plain Martin, Eurasian Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Northern House Martin.

WARBLERS

Gold crest, Long-billed Bush Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Paddy field Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, White-browed Tit Warbler, Phylloscopus Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Mountain Chiffchaff, Dusky Warbler, Sculpture-bellied Warbler, Hume's Warbler, Buff-barred Warbler, Garden Warbler, Greater Whitethroat, Barred Warbler.

LARKS,WAGTAILS, AND FINCHES

Bimaculated Lark, Tibetan Lark, Greater Short-tored Lark, Crested Lark, Oriental Skylark, Horned Lark, Spanish Sparrow, Tibetan Snowfinch, White-rumped Snowfinch, Plain-backed Snowfinch, White Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Rosy Pipit, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor, Robin Accentor, Brown Accentor, Brambling, Twite, Plain Mountain Finch, Mongolian Finch, Yellow-whammer.

RODENTS

Himalayan Marmot, Long-tailed Marmot, High Mountain Voles, Silvery Mountain Vole, Stoliczka's Mountain Vole

LAGOMORPHS

Cape Hare, Woolly Hare, Plateau Pika, Ladakh Pika, Nubra Pika, Large-earned Pika, Royle's Pika.

NATIONALS PARKS, SANCTUARY AND WILDLIFE RESERVE OF LADAKH

Today, about 10 percent of the total area of Ladakh is deemed protected and includes national parks, sanctuaries, and reserves. National parks and sanctuaries of Ladakh are under the directorate of the Department of Wild life Protection, Government of Jammu & Kashmir, India, which have regional office at Leh. Entrance permits to visit protected area are obtained from the same office. Today, the following locations are listed under protected area.

1. CHANGTHANG SANCTUARY

The Changthang Cold desert Sanctuary covers an area of 4000sq.km and encompasses Rupshu valley and the adjoining part of Changthang plains to Hanle and north to Indus River.
Flag species include : the sKiang (wild ass), Tibetan Argali, and Tibetan Gazelle. Moreover it holds breeding grounds of the Bar-headed Geese and endangered Black-necked crane.

2. HEMIS NATIONAL PARK

The Hemis National park is located in central Ladakh, in the Zanskar range south of the Indus River near Leh, with Rumbak and Markha valleys forming its core area. It extend from the Zanskar river in the west to Hemis village in the east and the region south of Markha valleys as it southern border, covering an area about 4100 sq.km is considered as core area. In addition to a great variety of wildlife it also holds the last remnants of natural Ladakhi woodlands.
Flag species include : Snow leopard, Blue sheep and Himalayan Snowcock, with limited populations of Argali, Ibex and Ural, or Brown Bear along the southern limit peak.

3. KANJI SANCTUARY

Kanji Sanctuary located south of the Fotu-la, Pass after Lamayuru village, it was established in 1988 and covers an area of 250 sq. Km. It main purposes is to protect the healthy Ibex population which exceeds 300 animals.

4. SABU CHUKOR RESERVE

Sabu Chukor reserve is located about 20 Km east of Leh, it covers a 70 qs.Km area. Its main purpose is to offer safe habitat to Chukor and a limited population of Ibex and Blue Sheep.

5. ETONGRI SANCTUARY

A small 20 sq. Km area west of Padum in Zanskar valley.

Wild life spot in Ladakh

1. Tsomorri Lake

Tsomoriri Lake is situated at an Altitude of 4650m can be reached in a day's spectacular, panoramic drive from Leh. The lake represents certainly the best-known and most important breeding ground for Bar-headed Geese in Ladakh, but one can sight Black-necked Grebe, Rose-finches and Accentors on the Caragana-covered northern lake edge and dippers along the feeding streams. On one occasion even the Parasitic Skua has been sighted over the lake. Mammals found here include Blue Sheep, Fox, Weasel, Marmot, Woolly Hare and Pika.

2. Tsokar lake plains

Tso-Kar lakes provide important breeding grounds from April to August to a great range of birds, among others Bar-headed Geese, Great-crested Grebes, Ruddy Shelducks, Lesser Sand Plovers, and Various Terns and Gulls. It is possible to observe the rare Black-necked Crane foraging in the boggy marshes or the Tibetan Sand grouse alighting next to a spring to quench its thirst by mid morning. The extensive shores of both lakes are occupied by waders whereas the adjoin grasslands and barren hillsides host impressive numbers of mountainous and dry land birds such as Accentors, Larks, and Finches including Plain-backed Snowfinch. These Birds are preyed upon by resident raptor species such as Golden Eagle, Kestrel. From end August onwards, a fantastic aggregation of migrating waterfowl covers the lakes and their shores are frequented by waders staging their journey southwards .At unpredictable moments considerable flocks of Kites, Harriers, and other raptor species make their appearance. However, this area is not affected by spring passage, since the marshes and lakes are still frozen and thickly covered by ice. Mammal species encountered can include Pallas's Cat, Wolf, Red Fox, Weasel, Kiang, Blue Sheep, Argali, Marmot, Woolly Hare and Pika.

3.Puga Sumdo valley

The abandoned sulphur mines and hot spring are not only attraction in the valley. Puga Sumdo valley is rich diversity of eco-systems like's brooks, marshes, meadows, bush-covered stony valley floors or steep rock slopes, the area offers surprising bird diversity.

4.Pangong lake

The Pangong Lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar headed goose and Brahmini duck are commonly seen here. The region around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the sKiang and the Marmot.

5. Yoye-Tso

Yoye-Tso is the small lake situated at an Altitude of 4680m can be reach in a day with panoramic drive from Leh. The meadows, marshes, and shores at the northern end of the lake are extremely productive of birdlife.

6. Puga Sumdo valley

The abandoned sulphur mines and hot spring are not only attraction in the valley. Puga Sumdo valley is rich diversity of eco-systems like's brooks, marshes, meadows, bush-covered stony valley floors or steep rock slopes, the area offers surprising bird diversity.

7. Rumbak and Markha valley

About 10 Km west of Leh, the Indus river valley is joined by a small side valley leading south to Rumbak. It is willow and Hippophea covered Banks and slopes offer a wide variety of bush and hill birds, changing into high-altitude species towards the elevation at Ganda-La pass.
Flag species include : Wall-creeper, Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Himalayan Snowcock, Buntings. Finches, and probably Grandala can be observed here. The valley is excellent for mammal observation with Urial being plentiful in the lower area, Blue Sheep towards Rumbak region, and Argali above Yurutse towards Ganda-La pass. Other species include Fox, Weasel, Marmot, Hare Pika, and even the rare and exclusive Snow Leopard or Lynx.

8. Nubra valley

The Nubra valley 120 Km from Leh and located at the altitude of 3000m.The relatively mild climate has attracted man since the ancient times into this steep and rather narrow valley created by the wild and unpredictable Shayok river. Permanent changes of it river bed due to sudden and repeated increase of water level and a high silt content of its floods together with wind erosion, created spectacular sand-dunes in the more plain areas of the valley. The valley is extremely rich in Birds.
Flag species include : Shrikes, Warblers, Finches, Waders, Ducks, and smaller Raptors. Mammal species include Fox, Pika, Lynx and the semi-feral two humped Bactrian camel, and it is the only place in India where the Cape Hare can be watched and Ibex and Urial.

9. Shey and Thiksay marshes

Shey and Thiksay Marshes is accessed by following the Indus river upstream starting at the bridge at Choglamsar 7Km from Leh Town.
Flag species include : birds are Hippophea, Ducks, Waders, Warblers, Finches, plus Golden Oriole, Ibisbill.Mammal sightseeing are chiefly limited to Weasel and Pika.

10. Rizong Monastery

The area around the monastery is protected by its monks, so the region is conducive for wildlife growth in its natural state. Therefore woodlands and the small river running through the narrow valley produce a rich variety of Ladakhi 'lowland birds', whereas the arid valley behind the monastery is occupied by dry land species .The region, however, is best known as good site to observe Urial, whereas further up towards Ule village presence of Ibex is recorded and can be seen occassionally.
Flag species include : Blue Sheep, Ibex, Urial and Chukor.

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