Lessons of life from the wildlife of Leh Ladakh

There have been endless articles describing the beauty of Leh Ladakh. And rightly so, the mesmerising place known for its diverse and picturesque landscapes looks something straight out of a postcard. From desert to mountains, ponds and lush greenery, the place has myriad locations and unique topography that are absolutely breathtaking and synonymous to the place. But what really caught was my attention is the wide range of beautiful birds and animals that add to the beauty of the region.
Each one absolutely stunning, taking my new found love and respect towards wildlife many notches above. I realised each and every animal or bird has something unique to teach us about life and its complexities. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn.

Pass the family bill for the black billed magpies
As soon as I stepped into this heavenly place, the black billed magpie was the first to greet me with its loud cackling sounds. Commonly seen in the Himalayas, the black billed magpie is local resident in northern and central Himalayas. Black and white in colour with a long tail and a dark bill, this magnificent bird can teach a lesson or two about life to human beings. Absolutely homebodies, this bird is monogamous and mates with one partner for life. That’s not all, they even raise several offspring together, further exemplifying the importance of a happy family. To ensure the family is safe and sound, the birds built nests that are considered strong as a fortress and what’s more? They even decorate it too with loads of bling. Pretty neat, right?

Defend yourself like the Marmots
We sighted the marmots at the Hemis National Park on our way to the Pangong Lake. Literally cute balls of fur on first sight, they seem friendly and quite playful. In general they are but if these adorable ground dwelling rodents sense danger from you, beware! They can even bite you, which is likely to cause rabies. Unlike to their dorky appearance, they are quite intelligent and use lookouts to watch predators. These lookouts use the medium of whistling as communication to warn their community.

Adapt like the double humped camels
What could be more fascinating than sitting atop the double humped camels in the oasis of Hunder, famous for its breathtaking sand dunes? Nothing really! It may have been a bumpy ride on these camels, especially for me because I was seated on the youngest and the most playful ones. However, you can’t stop but be in awe of these mild mannered animals who preach a very vital lesson life. They are one of the few animals that can adapt to changing weather conditions and that too without complaining. These camels grow a thick coat of hair each winter that sheds off every spring when it gets warmer. Not to forget, they’re amazing reservoirs of energy that teach us the importance of savings and that when things get difficult, we have to learn to survive and move on.

Romance like the Lammergeier
On our way to Khardungla we sighted the lammergeier or the bearded vulture. This absolutely breathtakingly beautiful scavenger has the wing span of about nine feet and only preys mainly on the bone marrow of animals. Other than its hunting skills, this bird is also known for its wooing skills and display of affection. During the breeding season, courting pairs put up a spectacular show, swooping and soaring together, and occasionally interlocking their talons and spiralling downwards almost to the ground. Love definitely can give you wings holds true with them as an example. What say?

Together we can says the kiang
Is it a horse or is it a donkey? No, it’s a kiang or the Tibetian wild ass as it is popularly called in the Leh Ladakh region. Though, it belongs to the ass species, I noticed at the Hemis National Park, it has a very noble like appearance, similar to the horses. Their light brown coat and their long tails blend fabulously with the camouflage. What sets them apart other than their elegant looks is their teamwork and energy especially when they come face-to-face with their predators. Usually moving in packs, the manner in which they navigate the landscape and defend themselves by forming a circle is mind-boggling. All you can do is stay awed with their skills!

Protect like the yaks do
On my trek to the Rumbak valley, I had a face to face meeting with this glorious animal. With its exotic appearance comprising handlebar horns, buffalo humped shoulders, horse-like tail, and a long hairy skirt reaching almost to the ground; it’s quite pleasing and intimidating the same time. Especially, the yak mothers are exceptionally protective of their calves and even the ones in the herd and can go to any extent to protect them from wolves, coyotes or even human beings. More to female power! We likey!

Picture Courtesy: Shankar Seetharaman & Pratik Kothari

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