Jammu and Kashmir is India's northernmost state. It is also a state with fascinating wildlife.
The Himalayas and the sub Himalayan mountain ranges are a unique and pristine ecosystem where many rare animals and birds can be found. In Kashmir you could see the elusive and magnificent snow leopard, the burly Himalayan Black Bear, the majestic Hangul or Kashmir stag, the Chiru or Tibetan antelope, the Bharal or blue sheep, many species of mountain goats, the yak - a wild animal that has been domesticated for centuries as a best of burden - and many varieties of rare birds, including the splendid Monal pheasant and Himalayan Tragopan. Other animals you can see include Musk Deer, Ibex, Leopards, monkeys and langurs.
The unique wildlife of Jammu and Kashmir is characteristic of the Himalayan ecosystem. The pleasant summers and cold winters are reflected by animal and bird migrations. Many creatures move down the slopes to better grazing areas during the harsh winter and migrate up to the mountainous slopes in the warm summer. Summer is therefore the best time to see wildlife in Jammu and Kashmir. The animals can be seen in the wildlife sanctuaries, on the grassy slopes and the birds on the trees as they feed and look after their young during the warm summer.
The Snow Leopard (Zoological name: Uncea uncea) is the primary predator in high altitude areas of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Seen along the snow line, the Snow Leopard is not easily noticed because of its effective camouflage. The Snow Leopard's fur is a thick silvery gray which helps it conceal itself along the snow line and the rocks of the mountains, which are its natural habitat. The black rosettes and spots help the Snow Leopard blend into areas of sunlight and shadow and hide more effectively while stalking its prey.
The Snow Leopard can be seen in the Dachigam National Park in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, on wildlife tours with Kashmir Hub. The Snow Leopard lives in the high altitude areas in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Central
Asia. Snow Leopards prefer to live along the snow line in summer. In winter they come down to pine forests and grassy meadows in search of prey and a less harsh environment.
The snow leopard is a handsome animal with a thick coat of silvery fur marked with black spots. The underbelly and chest are white and the fur is longer to protect it from the snow beneath. It has stocky limbs and huge paws, which give it a stable grip on the slippery snow-covered ground and rocky ridges. A Snow Leopard can be 7 feet long; this includes its 3-foot tail. It is usually 2 feet tall and weighs between 25 and 40 Kg.
Snow Leopards are good climbers and stalkers. They are normally found alone except for small groups of a mother Snow Leopard with her cubs. Cubs usually become independent after a year of living with their mothers. A mother leopard normally has 1-3 cubs. Snow Leopards are the primary predator in high altitude areas and stalk and hunt wild sheep, mountain goats, deer, rabbits, hares, marmots, and birds such as pheasant and partridges. Snow Leopards usually hunt in twilight or at night and sleep through the day therefore minimizing their chances of being seen.
Worldwide there may be 4500 - 7350 Snow Leopards. The wide range of this estimate is due to the difficulty in gathering data because of the mountainous terrain in which the Snow Leopard lives. Snow Leopards are under threat from poachers who hunt them for their attractive fur even through Snow Leopards are an endangered and hence protected species in India. You can see the magnificent Snow Leopard in the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary in Jammu and Kashmir.
Hangul - Kashmir Stag
The Hangul or Kashmir Stag (Zoological name: (Cervus elaphus hanglu) is an endangered species of Red Deer found in Jammu and Kashmir, India. This large deer can be seen in the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary in Srinagar in Kashmir on tours with Kashmir Hub. The Hangul or Kashmir Stag is characterized by the spreading antlers of the adult male and its rich brownish red coat.
The Hangul or Kashmir Stag can be seen in the Dachigam National Park in Jammu and Kashmir on wildlife tours with Kashmir Hub. The Hangul lives in grassy and forested hill slopes of Jammu and Kashmir. These wild deer can also be seen in large herds in the Wardwan Valley, In the Gurez, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and Talail regions.
The Hangul is a large deer and the male deer have
impressive antlers. The female Hangul do not have horns. The color of the Hangul's coat is a brownish red, which is why it is also called Red Deer, however this color can vary with the season and age of the Hangul. In an older Hangul the coat is a dark brown. Male Hangul stags have long hair along their necks, while female stags do not.Herds of Hangul or Kashmir stags can be seen along the higher slopes of the Dachigam Wildlife sanctuary in Srinagar. Hangul are usually seen in family groups. The male deer battle with their antlers to control a herd that consists of female deer and their young. The herd is lead by the dominant stag. Hangul are active during the day when they are seen grazing along the slopes of the Dachigam wildlife sanctuary. The herd huddles together in a group at night, for warmth and for protection against predators.The Hangul is severely endangered. The Hangul population in the Dachigam Wildlife sanctuary is believed to be around 550. The total number of Hangul elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir is unknown. You can see the impressive Hangul or Kashmir Stag in the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary in Jammu and Kashmir.
Chiru - Tibetan Antelope
The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope (Zoological name: Pantholops hodgsonii) is an endangered animal found in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir India. This Antelope is known for the fine hair of its underbelly and chest, which is woven into the softest of woolen shawls. The wool is known as Shahtoosh or King of Wools and is one-fifth the thickness of human hair. The wool is so fine that a full-sized shawl can pass through a ring worn on ones finger. The warmth, softness and luxurious feel of Shahtoosh, has made Shahtoosh shawls a worldwide fashion must-have. This has led to the decimation of the Chiru in Tibet because several Chiru are killed to harvest the wool from their underbellies from which these shawls are woven. In India the Chiru is protected and trade in Shahtoosh is banned.
The Chiru is also protected in China.The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope can be seen in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir on wildlife tours with Kashmir Hub. The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope live on the Ladakh Plateau and on high altitude mountain slopes of Jammu and Kashmir. They are found at altitudes of over 3,700 meters. Chiru are found in larger numbers in Tibet.The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is a medium sized deer. It has a dense coat, which protects it during the severe Himalayan winter. The wool on the back and shoulders is light brown while the fine wool on the chest and underbelly is cream or white. The face and legs are dark brown or black. Male Chiru have black horns, which extend for 50-70 cm. Chiru or Tibetan Antelope live in small herds of 10-15 individuals led by a large male antelope. Male Chiru fight for control of the herd and can seriously hurt each other with their sharp horns.Snow Leopards, Himalayan Black Bears, Wolves, and poachers prey upon Chiru. They are therefore quick to flee at the first sign of danger. Chiru usually feed in the twilight hours of morning and evening. Chiru have adapted to the harsh Himalayan weather. They dig shallow troughs in which they rest. This protects them from the icy wind and the sight of predators. Chiru fed on grasses and plants found on the Tibetan and Ladakh plateaus.The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is an endangered species. The total number of Chiru worldwide is estimated to be around 60-75,000. You can see the Chiru or Tibetan Antelope in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.
Yaks (Zoological name: Bos grunniens) are found in the wild in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Yaks have been domesticated in Ladakh for thousands of years and are a very valuable animal in the Himalayan economy. The yak is used as a beast of burden to carry loads and to plough fields. The local people also drink its milk and eat its meat. The Yak's thick hair is used to weave blankets and ropes and Yak dung provides fuel in the treeless areas of Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau.
The Yak can be seen in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir on wildlife tours with Kashmir Hub. Domesticated Yaks can be seen in the possession of local farmers while wild Yaks live on mountain slopes of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. They are found at altitudes of over 3,200 meters. Yaks are also
found in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.The Yak is a large mammal. An adult male Yak can grow to almost 6 feet tall and weigh 1000 Kg. Female Yaks are smaller. Yaks are covered with a dense coat of thick black hair that protects it from the extremely cold Himalayan climate. Yaks can survive temperatures of - 40 C. They are hardy animals and can survive snowstorms and blizzards. In harsh winters they can survive by eating moss and dried grass. Snow and ice provides liquid refreshment for the Yak. Yaks are also good climbers and can pick their way over rocky mountain slopes and inclines.Yaks usually live in herds of 10-30 though larger groups have also been seen. Yak herds migrate in winter to better pastures on the lower slopes and return to the high altitude pastures in warmer months. Yaks feed on grass, mosses and leaves. Their horns are used to dig through the snow to expose grasses underneath. The long horns of the male Yak can extend up to 76 cm.There are less than 10,000 mature wild Yaks worldwide. Domesticated Yaks however are more numerous and are believed to be around 12, 000, 000. You can see both domesticated and wild yaks in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.
Birds of Ladakh
Ladakh is a unique Himalayan ecosystem in Jammu and Kashmir, which you can visit on Ladakh tours with Kashmir Hub. The starkly beautiful landscape of Ladakh is often described as a moonscape because of its dramatic barren appearance. However even in this seemingly barren environment there are many beautiful and rare birds to be found. These include the rare and elusive Black Necked Crane. Revered in the mythology of Ladakh and protected by the Buddhist faith of the local Ladakhi people, these rare birds and many others find this Himalayan habitat a safe nesting ground. You can see many of these rare birds on tours of Ladakh with Kashmir Hub.
Around 170 species of birds are found in Ladakh. Many of these birds are migratory in nature. They feed and nest in the higher reaches of the slopes in summer and migrate to the lower and warmer slopes in winter.
Some of the birds found in Ladakh include Himalayan Snowcocks, Himalayan partridges, and pheasants including the Monal Pheasant. These birds are mostly ground dwellers and are valued for their plumage and meat. The Mongolian Plover is a variety of ground nesting bird seen in Ladakh. It is known for its distraction display, which it uses to distract a predator such as a fox or human who approaches its nest. To protect its eggs or chicks the Plover pretends to be injured and holding a wing as if it were broken, attracts the attention of the threatening predator and leads it away, only to fly away at the last moment, after its sure its chicks are safe.
Predatory birds found in Ladakh include the Lammergeyer or Bearded Vulture. This fascinating bird drops bones that it has scavenged, onto bare rocks from a height, to break the bones and eat the marrow within. Griffon vultures, falcons and kites are also seen riding the thermal air currents over the Himalayas in Ladakh.
Rare Geese found in Ladakh include the Bar Headed Goose which breeds in large breeding colonies on the Tso Morari Lake.
The Black Necked Crane
The Black Necked Crane (Zoological name: Grus nigricollis). The Black Necked Crane is a rare species of crane found in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir India. The Black Necked Crane is found in large numbers in Tibet and China.
The Black Necked Crane is an elegant bird. Its body is covered with whitish-gray feathers. Its neck, face, feet and secondary feathers are black providing its striking appearance. Its long beak is gray-green. The Black Necked Cranes fly together in a characteristic V-shaped formation with each bird flapping its wings in a smooth and graceful movement.
The Black Necked Crane has a distinctive call like the sound of a trumpet, which can be heard from some
distance away. The courtship dance of the Black Necked Crane is a beautiful sight. A pair of Cranes bonds for life and their courtship is characterized by unison calls, bowing, dancing, flapping of wings and exchanging of bits of grass and twigs. The Black Necked Crane builds its nest on the ground in its wetland habitat. The Black Necked Crane nests in Ladakh in summer and feeds on various roots, aquatic life and shoots in the marshes of Ladakh.There are between 5,600 and 6000 Black Necked Cranes worldwide. You could see the rare Black Necked Crane if you're lucky !