Wildlife of Tibet

Tibetan nomads struggle as grasslands disappear Desertification of the mountain grasslands of the Tibetan plateau is accelerating climate change

A growing population of pika, gerbils, mice and other rodents is also blamed for degradation of the land because they burrow into the soil and eat grass roots.

Zoologists say this highlights how ecosystems can quickly move out of balance. Rodent numbers have increased dramatically in 10 years because their natural predators – hawks, eagles and leopards – have been hunted close to extinction. Belatedly, the authorities are trying to protect wildlife and attract birds of prey by erecting steel vantage points to replace felled trees.

Books and DVDs about Tibet’s wildlife

Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe

Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe

The vast remote Tibetan steppe, the Chang Tang, is home to a unique assemblage of large mammals, including the Tibetan antelope, gazelle, argali sheep, wild ass, wild yak, wolves and snow leopards. This text is the result of the author’s research into the natural history of this little-known eco-system. The plains ungulates are the main focus of the book, especially the Tibetan antelope or “chiru”, whose migrations define this eco-system much as those of the wildebeest define the Serengeti. Descriptions of mammal numbers and distribution, behaviour and ecology are provided, information which may allow wildlife, grasslands and pastoralists to continue to coexist harmoniously in this region. This project led to the creation of the 130,000-square-mile Chang Tang reserve by the Tibetan government in 1993, and conservation and management efforts continue.

Wild China [DVD]

The Tibetan Plateau covers one quarter of China’s land area, but just 2.5 million people live there, the majority Tibetan Buddhists. Their religion mixes traditional Buddhism with older shamanic beliefs, and its teachings have instilled a respectful attitude to wildlife. Rare species such as black-necked cranes and Tibetan eared pheasants can benefit directly from co-existence with people. Meltwaters from Tibet’s 35,000 glaciers form large freshwater lakes including Qinghai and Manasarovar. Nesting birds here include great crested grebes and bar-headed geese. The plateau is a high altitude desert swept by freezing winds, but is also home to China’s biggest concentration of large animals. Argali sheep are seen descending hillsides to their winter grazing sites. In the Changtang, chiru are filmed congregating in the rutting season, and wild yaks are only found in the remotest areas. Predators include the elusive snow leopard and the Tibetan fox, filmed profiting from a Tibetan bear’s attempts to hunt pika. A highly lucrative “caterpillar fungus” (yatsa gunbu) is harvested from the spring ground for use as a traditional remedy. Life even clings on in the most extreme environments; the slopes of Everest are home to a species of jumping spider, whilst the unique hot spring snake survives at 4,500m by warming its body in thermal springs. The Saga Dawa festival takes place at sacred Mount Kailash and draws pilgrims of many faiths. Tibet is a fragile ecosystem; its glaciers are melting, and this will have a profound effect on the future for billions of people who depend on waters flowing from the plateau. Wild China [DVD] here from Amazon

Tibet (Bradt Travel Guide) The Bradt guides in addition to having loads of general travel information are often the best first port of call for wildlife. This one states: Exploring ethnic Tibet independently is a challenge. The proverbial ‘land of snows’, it possesses some of the wildest and roughest road routes in high Asia, and so trekking, motoring and mountain-biking are all covered in this new edition. Political and cultural issues make Tibet a sensitive destination for Westerners to visit, so Michael Buckley’s advice includes guidelines on cultural etiquette, local customs and travelling with minimum impact on Tibet’s culture and environment.

One reader wrote:

I would recommend the Bradt Guide as the first and best to read before a visit to Tibet. I make that recommendation as one who has travelled independently to Tibet many times and has acted as a travel advisor to hundreds of western travellers to Tibet.

Caterpillar fungus in Tibet

The troubled harvest of Tibet’s caterpillar fungus – excellent short video from The Guardian on how the trade in the ghost moth caterpillar fungus  is harming Tibet’s hills

It’s worth more than twice its weight in gold, but intense harvesting of caterpillar fungus is damaging the Tibetan hillside and leading to violent land disputes

See also Fungus gold rush in Tibetan plateau rebuilding lives after earthquake

Nature reserves in Tibet

Eighteen Nature Reserves: Tibet’s wildlife havens

Over 5,000 senior plants, 39 of which have been listed as wild plants under state key protection, grow in Tibet. The region also boasts 798 species of vertebrates and 2,305 species of insects. Some 125 animals in Tibet have been listed as rare species under top government protection. They include Tibetan antelope, yak, snow chicken and black-neck crane. Tibet, which occupies one eighth of China’s total area, has 6,400 kinds of plants including 40 kinds of rare species. It has over 1,000 sorts of herbal medicine, about one third of the national total.

More sites

Tibet Environmental Watch

No extensive work has been done on the wildlife of Tibet. The word ‘wildlife,’ contrary to popular belief, not only refer to wild animals, but also encompasses wild plants as well. Tibet is one of the few countries in the world, where limited scientific research has been conducted on the biological aspects of its many species. Some species are still not properly scientifically studied and some are even yet to be discovered.

A Resurgence of Wildlife in Northern Tibet

Explorer and biologist George Schaller has studied species across the world. Now he’s focusing on Asia and the protection of a Tibetan antelope, the chiru.

In the 1990s chiru were poached by the tens of thousands; their fine wool was woven to make expensive shawls. Now, China’s efforts to stop the poaching appear to be paying off. On a recent expedition to the chiru’s habitat, Schaller found that the antelopes are making a comeback.

With backing from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Geographic Society’s Expeditions Council, Schaller set off last fall on a 1,000-mile expedition. Here, he talks about his journey across a high Tibetan plateau in a region known as the Chang Tang.

ARKive: the Tibetan antelope or chiru

The Tibetan Plateau Blog: Wildlife of Tibet posters The Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement has published some splendid posters on Tibet’s wildlife.

Wildlife tours in Tibet

Wildlife in Tibet – Tibet Tours

We are specialize in arranging travel on the exotic Tibetan Plateau that flows for you with ease and simplicity. We have designed tours for all ages and abilities to explore the adventure that is Tibet .

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