Creatures on Top of the World: Animals You’ll Encounter Traveling in the Himalayas
The Himalayas, “Abode of the Snow”, is the most impressive mountain range on earth. 1500 miles in length, the Himalayan mountains stretch across much of Asia, from Pakistan to Bhutan, and cross through 3 other countries en route; India, China and Nepal.
The range varies in width from 150 miles to 90 miles, creating a natural border between China and Nepal. The Himalayas are not just big and long, but tall. The range is home to some of the tallest peaks on earth, including Mount Everest, with an elevation of 2,900 feet.
The Himalayas are home to a great many people and has long held a strong cultural significance. Whether it’s the sacred position they hold in Hinduism or Buddhism, or simply the thrill and challenge sought from scaling Everest, these mountains certainly have a draw. But people aren’t the only things drawn to these slopes. The Himalayas are home to a beautiful and diverse range of animal life.
If you find yourself scaling the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, keep an eye you for these animals that you might be likely to meet there;
Snow LeopardPerhaps the most beautiful animal to be found in the Himalayas, and even the world, the Snow Leopard is a truly majestic creature.
Like a normal leopard but with the fluffiest tail ever to grace an animal, the Snow Leopard needs it, given as they reside at elevations of up to 22,000 feet, where it gets pretty chilly. Snow Leopards can be hard to spot, they’re well camouflaged and quite shy, but to see one bounding effortlessly down a sheer mountainside is a sight to behold.
Despite their fluffy cuteness, Snow Leopards can be pretty fearsome. In terrain where prey is scarce, the Snow Leopard will happily take on, and munch on, animals up to four times their weight. Although, when times are harsh, they’ll make do by snacking on hares and other small rodents.
A good reason to try and spot one soon is the Snows Leopard’s dwindling population. There are only an estimated 6000 Snow Leopards left in the wild, with the population being reduced by increased farming activity in their habitat, being killed by farmers for preying on domestic livestock.
In the Himalayas, the Snow Leopard is the king of the mountain, and an astonishing sight.
YakYaks are synonymous with the Himalayas. Think of the mountains, and what springs to mind is a Sherpa with their Yak. Whilst this may seem a stereotype, domesticated Yaks have been used in Tibet for thousands of years as a combination between fat, slow horse, and dairy cow.
Although domesticated Yaks are widespread, the wild variety have a relatively small population, with numerous conservation efforts working to increase the population. Wild Yaks are the largest animal to inhabit the Himalayas, and as they travel in herds, should be easy to spot, although they do have a tendency to run away when startled. Even if the wild variety are nowhere to be seen, it should be easy enough to get up close to a domestic Yak, and even go for a ride on it.
TahrThe Tahr is a close relative of the wild Goat found throughout the rest of the world, just with a better head for heights. The crazed Tahr will confidently hop around crags at elevations that would have anyone’s head spinning with vertigo. The fact that they’ve only got hooves to balance on makes the feat even more impressive, like mountaineering in stiletto heels.
In the spring Tahrs like it way up high on the mountainside, where they act as a mobile snack for Snow Leopards, but the best time to spot them is in the winter, when they come down to the tree line to mingle in herds.
MonalThe Monal is kaleidoscopic (males only) pheasant, that are distributed in the woodland at the base of the Himalayan range and migrate up and down the slopes dependant on temperature.
Despite being poached for, among other things, its beautiful plumage, the population has been hit by human factors, with the exception of Pakistan where it remains strong. The Monal is one of the easiest animals to spot in the Pakistani region of the Himalayas where large groups of them gather to roost.
Yeti (You might see one)One of the worlds’ better known cryptids, the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman), allegedly patrols the Tibetan region of the Himalayas. The locals seem to have propagated the myth into western culture, where it sank deeply into popular culture.
Famed explorer of the Himalayas Edmund Hillary said that his father had seen one on two occasions, although he himself professed only to have seen large and mysterious tracks in the snow. One thing is for sure, if you do manage to spot one, it will be quite a find.
The list of amazing animals to spot in the Himalayas doesn’t end here. There are Black Bears, Wolves, Red Pandas, Langur Monkeys, Foxes and Golden Eagles to be seen against the beautiful backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains.
By Alisha Webb. Alisha is a British writer and a keen traveller, she is also a content developer for Shakti Himalaya.