The Himalayas have captured people’s imaginations for centuries. It’s a region of stunning landscapes and incredible diversity. Stretching over 2,500km, the Himalayas is home to millions of people and hundreds of unique species. Despite its rugged reputation, the Himalayas is a mosaic of fragile environments that face a range of challenges.
On this week preceding the World Environment Day, we focus on the most endangered Himalayan Wildlife. We list 6 most vulnerable species that reside in the Himalayas that needs special mention (and your due attention).
#1. Snow Leopard
It is one of the most elusive cats in the Himalayas. These Himalayan Wild Cats are most difficult to be spotted. And for that reason, they are known as the ‘ghosts’ of the cat world.
The population of Snow Leopards in India is estimated to be mere 200 to 600 in the wild. They are best seen in Hemis National Park, in East Ladakh, Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh.
Climate change poses the greatest long-term threat to snow leopards. The impact of climate change could result in a loss of up to 30 percent of the snow leopard habitat in the Himalayas.
Read about 4 reasons why climate change is bad for Snow Leopards
The biggest threat to Snow Leopards (after climate change) is Humans. Hunting, habitat loss, and retaliatory killings are the main reasons this big cat is now listed as an endangered species. They remain on the list of most endangered Himalayan Wildlife List.
#2. The Ganges River Dolphin
The blind eye, freshwater Dolphin resides in the densest population in the world. The Ganges River dolphin, (or Susu), inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
The changing complexities of the Brahmaputra-Gangetic basin have taken a toll on their population. They are threatened by the removal of river water and siltation arising from deforestation, pollution, and entanglement in fisheries nets. Alterations to the river due to barrages has separated their populations. A recent survey conducted by WWF-India and its partners in the entire distribution range in the Ganga and Brahmaputra river system identified less than 2,000 Dolphins in India.
They are an important species as the presence of dolphin in a river system signals a healthy ecosystem.
Read more about Ganges River Dolphin & role of WWF conservation endeavours
#3. Kashmir Red Stag
The Kashmir’s own Red Deer faces imminent extinction due to diminishing habitat, predators, and a skewed male-female ratio. Kashmir Red Stag, also known as ‘Hangul’ are found only in Dachigam National Park, Kashmir and few higher regions in northern Chamba.
Thankfully Supreme Court of India ban on Hangul Tourism and conservation measures has helped a bit. Hangul population has increased from 100 to over 300. However, more needs to be done in protecting their natural habitat and continual efforts (and funding) to the breeding program.
Read about Indian Army ‘Save Hangul Campaign‘
#4. Indian Rhinoceros
Indian Rhino, also known as the greater one-horned rhinoceros still remains on the list of most endangered animal. The ‘Big Guy’ habitat has dwindled to less than ten sites. Kaziranga National Park in Assam continues to have the sizable percentage of Rhino population.
Rhino populations saw a severe depletion as they were hunted for sport and killed as agricultural pests. In 1975, their number fell to an alarming 600. With rigorous conservation work and inspired revival in numbers was seen. By 2012, conservation efforts saw the population grow to over 3,000 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal in northeast India. We have seen 2 years of zero Rhino poaching in Nepal.
Even with such encouraging results, poaching for their horns continues to be a major threat. Although there is no scientific proof of its medical value, the horn is used in traditional Asian medicines, primarily for the treatment of a variety of ailments including epilepsy, fevers, and strokes. Asian rhino horn is believed to be more effective than African horn. Despite protections and bans on international trade in rhino horn, illegal trade persists throughout Asia.
#5. Himalayan Brown Bear
Not many know about the existence of Brown Bear in the Himalayas. The reclusive creature is facing drastic fall in population due to loss of habitat to commercial timber needs. The majority of sightings have been in Kugti and Tundah Wildlife Sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh. The population of this rare Beast is estimated to be around less than 1000 in the Himalayas.
There is little we know about Himalayan Brown Bear. More research and conservationist efforts need to be put before they go extinct.
Read more about fall in Himalayan Brown Bear numbers in Himachal Pradesh
#6. Red Panda
Many will remember them as a red fury friend of ‘Mowgli’ from Jungle Book Series. Red Panda or ‘Ponya’ are larger than a domestic cat with a shaggy tail. They have distinct reddish brown fur.
Almost 50 percent of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. The loss of nesting trees and bamboo is causing a decline in red panda populations because their forest home is being cleared depriving them of Bamboo trees.
Red pandas are often killed when they get caught in traps meant for other animals such as wild pigs and deer. They are also poached for their distinctive pelts in China and Myanmar. Red panda fur caps or hats have been found for sale in Bhutan. They struggle to breed due to low birth rate and high death rate.