WILDLIFE IN LADAKH

Ladakh is rough area where only the fittest animal and plant life survives. Although the environment is harsh, it boasts of a bounty of wildlife, endemic to this region. Its exotic highland flora springs up in the summer and engulfs the landscape in various colour. The fearsome predators include the elusive snow leopard, lynx, mighty brown bear, Shanko or wolf, fox and wild dog. The herbivores include the wild yak, the kiang, marmot, wild hare, niyan marcopolo ship, shapo, bharal ibex marcher, goat and the chirru, now almost hunted to extinction for its downy under coat worth it weight in gold for the shatoosh shawls made from it. Ladakh is also home to some beautiful and rear birds like the critically endangered black necked crane. Bar headed geese, woodpeckers, ducks, partridges, barbets, kingfishers, parakeets, swifts eagle, owls to name a few are some birds commonly seen in Ladakh. This rich rather exclusive wildlife however, is severely threatened by habitat loss and poaching.

FAUNA

The fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia generally, and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau. An exception there is huge variety of birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many of these birds reside or breed at high-altitude wetlands such as Tso Moriri.

WILDLIFE

In Ladakh there is also a famous wildlife Sancturity called “Hemis National Park” covers around 4,000 square kilometre, is now the largest national park in India, extending from Hemis to north of Zanskar, and this park is considered prime snow leopard (Panthera uncial) habitat, which have a breeding population of more than 200 snow leopards. Hemis National Park is also home to four species of wild sheep and goats that form the prey base for this apex predator, including Great Tibetan Sheep, locally called “Nyan” or “Tinetan Argali”,(Ovis ammon); Himalayan blue sheep, called “Bharal” or “Napo”, (Pseudois nayaur); Uriel, locally called “Shapo” (Ovis orientalis), Asiatic ibex Skin(Capra sibirica), and among the predators are Red Fox, Tibetan Wolf, Lynx, Pallas Cat, and many others.

BIRD WATCHING

For bird watchers, it’s a dream destination. Besides golden eagle, Lammergeier vulture and the Himalayan griffon vulture, the park is home to Brown Accentor, Robin Accentor, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Streaked Rosefinch, Tibetan Snowfinch, Chukar, Fork-tailed Swift, Red-billed Chough, Himalayan Snowcock, and the Fire-fronted Serin. Pollution free environment and noise free surroundings make birding a joyful experience.

HEMIS NATIONAL PARK

LOCATION

Located in the eastern part of Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir in north India, Hemis National Park has the distinction of being the largest national park in South Asia. Hemis National Park also has the distinction of being among the largest contiguous protected region, second only to Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve.

FAUNA

Spread over 4400 sq km, the park is home to 16 species of mammals and 73 of birds. The park is protected home for endangered mammals like leopards, Asiatic ibex, Tibetan wolf, the Eurasian brown bear and the red fox. The park boasts of 200 leopards and is the only habitat of Shapu or the Ladakhi Urial in India. It is also home to small mammals like Himalayan marmot, mountain weasel and Himalayan mouse hare.

BIRD WATCHING

For bird watchers, it’s a dream destination. Besides golden eagle, Lammergeier vulture and the Himalayan griffon vulture, the park is home to Brown Accentor, Robin Accentor, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Streaked Rosefinch, Tibetan Snowfinch, Chukar, Fork-tailed Swift, Red-billed Chough, Himalayan Snowcock, and the Fire-fronted Serin. Pollution free environment and noise free surroundings make birding a joyful experience.

Fast Facts:

  • Major Attraction – Snow Leopard
  • Established – 1981
  • Total Area –  4,400 sq km (1,700 sq mi)
  • Nearest Airport – Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (5 km)
  • Nearest Railhead – Kalka (Haryana)
  • Nearest Highway – Leh-Manali Highway and National Highway 1D (Srinagar – Kargil – Leh)
  • Nearest City – Leh (10 km)
  • Nearest Town – There are a few villages, and Monasteries (Gumphas) in the national park

Six villages exist within the confines of the park. The villages –Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling – are home to about 16oo people. Several gompas and chortens are also located within the park. The 400-year-old Hemis Monastery is also located within the park. Revered as the largest monastic institution in Ladakh, a trip to the monastery is a thrilling experience. Camping and trekking are other popular activities that can be indulged in the park.

The national park is also known for its scenic beauty. Lofty mountains and alpine forests of juniper and subalpine dry birch make it a treat for the eyes. The Stok Kangri peak is situated withing the park. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers acts as the park’s boundary and is a treat for the eyes. It also includes the catchment area of Markha, Sumdah and Rumbak, and some portion of the Zanskar Range.

ACCOMMODATION

No hotels are available in or near Hemis National Park. There are six villages in the Hemis National Park where home stay facilities are available. The villages are Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling. In addition, Hemis Monastery also offers rooms for visitors to stay. Options to eat are limited. It is advisable to carry food. Hemis Monastery does provide food to visitors. It also follows the tradition of offering butter tea to the visitors. Locals do also provide meals.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Hemis is between May and September, when the weather is pleasant. Most of the trekking routes and passage to jeep safari are closed after November due to heavy snowfall.