Ladakh is a mountainous region in the disputed northwest Jammu and Kashmir area in north India and in the area known as the Trans-Himalaya, (the lands beyond the Himalaya: Tibet, Xinjiang and northern Pakistan). It’s slightly smaller than Scotland, the settled population live between 2700m and 4500m, and nomadic encampments even higher, and it’s the largest and the least populated region of Jammu and Kashmir. The people are a mixture of Buddhist and Muslim 50% of each. Buddhists are the majority in the east close to the Chinese border and a slight majority overall while Muslims have the majority in the north and west. Travellers are likely to see more of the Buddhists as the majority of the tourist attractions are in the east and directly related to Tibetan Buddhist culture.
“Ladakh” the Farsi transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags; which means (“Land of High Passes”) on the borderland of extreme Pakistan and China that connected the Ancient Silk trade route. Ladakh has been described as The Mysterious Land of the Mystic Lamas, The Broken Moonland, or ‘The Last Shangri-La’ for its unique landscape and exquisite culture. One sees no horizon here but only mountain peaks soaring up to 5 to 6 km. In the prehistoric period Ladakh formed a Great Lake. Even at present the region has some of the largest and most beautiful lakes, Pangong and the Tsomoriri lakes. It is a repository of myriad cultural and religious influences from Tibet, South Asia and Central Asia.
WILDLIFE in LADAKH
In this region, we look for various mammals like :
• The Himalayan Ibex Capra sibirica sakeen (Ladakhi: skyn) the large mountain goat, with scimitar horns, are found in high craggy terrain of Ulley, and numbers several thousand in Ladakh. The males in beautiful winter coat are easily seen from February till June.
• The Greater Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur (Ladakhi: Na/Sna) is amid sized sheep and are common around Hemis and Gya Miru region.
• The Ladakh Urial Ovis orientalis vignei (Ladakhi: Shapo/Shamo) is a rare sheep found at lower elevations, mostly in river valleys, and therefore is often directly in competition with domesticated animals. They are now rare, numbering about one thousand.
• The Tibetan Argali Ovis ammon hodgsoni (Ladakhi: Nayan/Nayanmo) is a relative of the Marco Polo sheep of the Pamirs. It is the largest of India’s sheep. They are impressive animals with huge horizontal curving horns, they are extremely rare in Ladakh, numbering only a couple hundred.
• The Tibetan Wild Ass Equus kiang polyodon (Ladakhi: kyang) is one animal that visitors can expect to see from the comfort of a vehicle, if they take a jeep tour on the Changthang. favouring the rolling grasslands of this area, their natural curiosity makes them fairly easy to spot, despite the relatively low numbers, about 1500 individuals.
• The Snow Leopard Panthera uncia (Ladakhi: shan) once ranged throughout the Himalaya, Tibet, and as far as the Sayan Mountains on the Mongolian-Russian border; and in elevation from 1800 m to 5400 m. They are extremely shy but possible to spot in winter months.
• The Eurasian Lynx Lynx lynx isabellinus (Ladakhi: Eeh), numbering only a few individuals is possible in winter in some locations
• The Pallas’s Cat Octolobus manul nigripectus, (Ladakhi: Tasham) which looks somewhat like a house cat.
• The Tibetan Grey Wolf Canis lupus chanco (Ladakhi: shangku) is the greatest threat to the livestock of the Ladakhis and as such is the most persecuted. There are only about 300 wolves left in Ladakh.
• There are also a very Himalayan Brown Bears Ursus arctos isabellinus (Ladakhi: dhenmo) in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. It’s very much possible to see them in Mid May.
• The Red Fox Vulpes vulpes montana is common (Ladakhi: watse).
• Himalayan Marmots (Ladakhi: pheya) are common; you can even sometimes see them from the road, although they do not look very different from the marmots common to other mountainous areas of the world.
• Woolly Hares Lepus oiostolus (Ladakhi: ribong),
• Several pika species (Ladakhi: zabra) like Large-eared Pika Ochotona macrotis; Ladakh Pika Ochotona ladacensis; Royle’s Pika Ochotona roylei