|Bharals at Changma|
A Leh – Ladakh trip in summer months bring an unexpected bounty in form of viewing wild life consisting different species of birds and animals, when one criss-crosses in jeep through hilly roads or treks on the mud – stone track. One really does not know when he is within any wild life sanctuary sans any man made boundary or man-power taking care of those areas. Occasionally one is lucky to come across signboards, which indicates the name of the wild life sanctuary, where one has kept his foothold. The due protection offered to the wild life species by the local habitants of Ladakh, have certainly helped them to proliferate and feel secure.
The principal wild life sanctuaries in Ladakh are:
1) Hemis National Park
2) Changthang National Park
Hemis High Altitude National Park is in the Eastern Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Hemis extends from Zingchen through Rumbak valley to Stok. The famous snow leopards about 200 in number seem to exist in Rumbak catchment areas. It is a rare to see these species even during winter seaon. If one can see their pug-marks on snow in winter months, one should consider himself lucky. The other animals in this region are Bharal or Himalayan Blue sheep (feed for snow leopards), Asiatic Ibex, Ladakhi Urial and many others. This region also has a variety of birds some of them being Tibetan species, not visible in other parts of India. Birds existing in these habitats are Golden Eagle, Himlayan Griffon, Chukar, Himalayan Snowcock etc.
We, in our trip to Ladakh in end May 2010, were unfortunate for not able to visit Rumbak, because of excess snowfall in those regions. However that did not prevent us from having a go at Hemis national park from both ends, in areas like Zingchen and Stok. When we undertook the Stok to Changma trek on 30th May, 2010, little did we knoe that we were venturing into Hemis wild life sanctuary. From Stok village, we walked through dried river bed mostly over stones, crossing small streams and after covering 5 kms reached Changma, our destination. We were traversing on a trail leading to Stok – Kangri, one of the highest mountain peaks visible from Leh town and it’s expedition is undertaken by adventurous trekkers in month of September. We were actually on area for base camp meant for this kind of expedition. Ironically, throughout our trek, the Stok – Kangri peak was not visible, being covered by so many hills in the front. After three of us had a nourishing cup of coffee at the tented restaurant at Changma, we thought of walking another kilometer or so, just to view Stok – Kangri peak. We came across a glacier, but fortunately, we did not have to cross it. That late morning we could not get a view of Stok – Kangri and somewhat dejected, were about to retrace our footsteps. Then, suddenly, we spotted something, which froze us in our tracks. A number of brown colored animals were grazing ahead. We tip toed and came really close enough for a generous number of images and a some amount of video footages. This was our first unexpected encounter with wild life of Ladakh.
|A Close Encounter|
Next day, we had another look at Hemis National park from the other end. Reaching Zingchen, our jeep passed over a small stream to a flat land cleared from forested area. The place was desolate, with only a cottage which served as a restaurant but unfortunately it was closed. We sat on the benches in the shade of Poplar trees and looked around for some kind of life. A guy appeared with couple of ponies, waiting for his clients to arrive. He offered to pick us up, in case we needed a return trip on back of the pony. We passed over a log bridge to the same jeepable road we travelled earlier and continued in the direction of Hemis National Park. The signboard soon enough indicated that we were on the correct trail. We walked for about 5 km deep through a stony path, crossing a few streams, but did not find any life of wild life. We had a bite to eat from our packed lunch, sitting on rocks under a willow tree, our legs dangling into flowing water of the mountain stream. On our return trek, we observed a shepherd, following his flock of sheep, on the mountain trail. Reaching Zinchan, left us about 2 hours of time before our hired Qualis was about to pick us up. The silence in the area was broken by rustling of leaves of Poplar and Willow trees. The greenery around was soothing. After a while we were getting edgy and decided to do some bird shooting. After a lot of chase, we captured a few of the Himalayan birds in our lens, two of them are reproduced below.
|Black Billed Magpie|
Changthang Wild life sanctuary is in the Southern region of Ladakh located at high altitude ranging fom 14,000’ to 19,000’, located in Changthang plateau. It is important as one of the few places in India with a population of the Tibetan Wild Ass and Black necked crane. The area of the sanctuary covers the regions of High altitude lakes like Tsomoriri and Pangong Tso. Since both the lake destinations are in top of the preferred destinations for Ladakh tourists, hence there is no extra endeavor necessary to step into Changthang National Park.
On our jeep safari to Tsomoriri, we only came across a signboard near the lake fencing which indicated that we were in Changthang Cold Desert Wild Life Sanctuary. In this trip we came across a lot of nomadic tents and huge population of sheep. Yaks were grazing at some locations or ploughing the agricultural plots. No trace of luck as far as wild life was concerned. Our endeavor in this respect was amply rewarded in our jeep safari to Pangong Tso. After crossing Tangtse, one hour later, we were passing by a huge flat land across the road. Our driver noticed some movement beside a huge dug up hole, stopped the car and asked us to follow. What followed was observing Marmot a wild animal about 2’ in height, in a very close proximity, our driver feeding it some bread sticks. We as usual were content to keep using our fingers on digicam and handycam.
|Marmot Peeping Out|
|Black Headed Gull|
|Wild Bactrian Camels|
When we were returning by jeep from Nemo, confluence of rivers Zanskar and Indus, after completing white water rafting on river Zanskar, a pair of Ibex ran across our jeep and went as far as the distant hill. The split moment was not conducive to have a photograph of the animals.
* Author has captured many video clips of the wild animals at Ladakh. The composite video of the same can be seen to supplement the blog from following link