WILDLIFE IN THE HIMALAYAS
Under threat of habitat destruction, natural resources’ depletion, hunting and poaching, many animal species are becoming endangered in India and around the world. Human intervention is also posing serious threats to animal habitat.Little do we realise that our country is extremely rich in flora and fauna and must be conserved.
Stretching almost 2,500km from east to west, the Himalayas are home to millions of people and hundreds of unique species. The EasternHimalayas are home to over 10,000 types of plant, 750 species of bird and 300 species of mammal – many of them found nowhere else on the planet. The region’s iconic, yet threatened species include Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, greater one-horned rhino, red panda, snow leopard, black-necked crane, Gangetic dolphin and many more.
16,000 feet up in the Himalayas, a lung full of air contains only half the oxygen of a breath taken at sea level. Despite the cold, the sun burns fiercely through the thin atmosphere and despite the permanent ice of the peaks, water is scarce. Every Himalayan life is precarious. The Himalayas presents no easy survival opportunities to the animals. Only the tough and the lucky endure.
The Unique Wildlife in Himalayas
The Snow Leopard, one of the top predators hunts alone in the twilight and at night. A rare species, the snow leopard is a specialist mountaineer. It has short legs and its ears and testicles are drawn deep into its multi-layered fur coat. In extreme cold, it wraps itself in its lush tail.
Bharal are one of six different Himalayan species of mountain sheep and goat. To extract maximum oxygen from the thin air, bharal blood is rich in red cells. Short legs reduce heat loss and lower the center of gravity. Bharal hooves are soft and rubbery for grip. Its gut generates heat as it digests. Hollow hair fibers retain that heat, and the bharal’s topcoat is perfect camouflage.
Marmots are fast-breeding rodents and are an important source of food for Himalayan carnivores including snow leopards and wolves. Their diggings and droppings encourage grass growth. Defenceless alone, they have a group warning system.
Tibetan Wolves usually work together to kill larger prey. Wolves prefer to hunt in the open where they can wear down their prey over a long chase.
With a wingspan of nine feetthe Bearded Vulture in the Himalayas scavenges meat and has an advantage over all its competitors. It eats the bone. To digest its hard diet, the bird’s gut is highly acidic as it can swallow bones ten inches long.
Golden Eagles breed in the early spring so that they can raise their young when its warmer and prey more plentiful. The Golden Eagle seldom drinks as it gets moisture from flesh. The more efficient lungs of the birds cope easily with the thin air.
The Horned Lark is a summer migrant from lower altitudes. It feeds on insects that appear during the few weeks of warmth.To know more about the richness of wildlife on our planet, threats to the environment and how we can live in harmony with it, watch Animal Planet’s Environment Month every night at 8 pm.
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