The flora and fauna of Ladakh was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian/Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s. The fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia generally, and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau. An exception to this are the 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.
Most common animals found here are – Yak (a wild ox), the largest animal found in Ladakh, Nyan, the largest sheep in the world, Bharal, the blue sheep and Urial, the smallest sheep in the world.
The wild yak is to be found only here. The snow leopard is Ladakh’s most rare animal. Another one that is unique is the “Kyang” or the wild horse; while at lower altitudes the musk deer too is a rare sight, precious by virtue of its expensive musk. Visitors are likely to spot many marmots, mouse hares, stone martens, red foxes, wolves, ibex, bharal and shapu during the course of their journey but the habitat of the nyan (big horned sheep), chim (Tibetan antelope famed for its fleece-Shahtoosh), goat (Tibetan gazelle), lynx, pallas cat, kyamg (wild horse) and brong dong (wild yak) are still outside the tourists’ sphere. The Kyang, or Tibetan Wild Ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 1,500 individuals.
There are about 200 Snow Leopards in Ladakh, especially in Hemis High Altitude National Park. The Tibetan Wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan Sand Fox has recently been discovered in this region.
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