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Thread: Himalayan Sheep (Blue Sheep)

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    Default Himalayan Sheep (Blue Sheep)

    Appreciate experts assistance to get the scientific name.

    Location: Found on the trekking route of Gangothri - Goumukh

    Camera and settings: Nikon D300 & 80-400mm vr @ 250mm, f/5.3, 1/250, ISO-250
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Dileep Anthikad; 05-08-2011 at 01:40 AM. Reason: To add the image

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    Nice shot. Nice relaxed pose with the foreleg stretched out. The symmetry of the head from this angle looks good. Impressive horns. Is this full-frame or cropped?
    Binomial name- Pseudois nayaur. It is commonly called "bharal" in Hindi.
    TFS.

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    Good rare Photograph. BHARAL(Pseudois nayaur),was originally classified as a SHEEP.Its physical characteristics are intermediate between Goat and sheep.Schaller has written "In general its behavioural evidence confirms the morphological evidence that Bharal are basically GOATS.Many of the sheep- like traits of Bharal can be ascribed to convergent evolution,the results of the species having settled in a habitat which is usually occupied by Sheep."Bharal,like sheep,graze in open slopes,whereas Goats prefer more precipitous Cliff habitats.Thanks for sharing.SaktiWild

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    Like the composition .The horns look majestic.Nice feel of the habitat....coat colour matches so well with the rock texture it would be tough to spot it....
    TFS
    Roopak

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    Very impressive Wish you had got a more side on pose of the head showing the eyes better. Nonetheless, good work.

    Tfs
    Bhargava

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    Nice image Dileep!

    I am happy to see image of a bharal. Nice pair of horns as well as hoof on display. Were you not carrying your 500mm? Did you see many of them? Wish they remain in large numbers so that our predators have can survive.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    Lovely photograph. The horns looks great. Nice pose and eye contact. Good details. Its good that we are able to see some new species from the Himalayan ranges. Thanks for sharing. Look forward to more.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    I didn't know much about this species till now and therefore thanks a lot everyone for the provided information.

    Srivari, you are right about the conventional angle. But I thought the symmetry of horns could the best possible angle from that scene and waited for that moment to click. And I believe most of us enjoy breaking the rules whenever situation demands.

    Sabyasachi; Yes I had carried 500mm as well for birds. But only a few clicks were possible as we had to cover long distance in short time.

    Initially we spotted three Bharals. We came across a large herd consists of 80 to 100 further away from this spot. But I couldn't take any clicks from there as they caused rock slide and we had to run for cover. From around 100mtr height, stones and rocks were coming towards us like rockets. If our guide didn't warn us, these rocks could have easily knocked us down to the Bhagirathi river.

    Actually I was wondering about the likely predators at that time! I think you can tell us more about it. Do you think Snow Leopards are around there or just Himalayan Jackals / Himalayan Wolfs?

    Kind regards,
    Dileep

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    Dileep,

    Bharal is a part of the diet of Snow Leopards. However, I think they may have got alerted due to a normal leopard as well. What was the approximate altitude and what time of the year did you click this?

    The snow leopards often come down to lower altitude during winters. It is on top of my list. I have a plan to mount an expedition for Snow Leopard, but am awaiting a different film camera for that.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    Hi Sabyasachi,

    This was taken in the first week of June 2011. Altitude was approximately 3,500 + meters.

    So happy to hear about your Snow Leopard expedition... Wow! Is it to Ladakh?

    Btw, any specific reason for considering film camera for this? I was under the impression that new generation FX sensors really good for any wildlife trip.

    Kind regards,
    Dileep

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    Hi Dileep,
    I thought referring to George B. Schaller as he had done a good study on Bharals.

    1. Name: He preferred the name Bharal to Blue Sheep. In 1833 Brian Hodgson a naturalist first gave it a scientific name Ovis nayaur under the assumption that bharal is a sheep. Then in 1846 he placed the bharal in a separate genus, Pseudois. So the name Pseudois nayaur stands till date. The stout horns of the Bharal resembles that of a sheep. However, its broad flat tail, black and white markings on forelegs it is goat like. "Sheep have eye glands and they have pedal glands between their hooves, whereas goats lack eye glands and are equipped with pedal glands only on the forefeet, if at all. blue sheep add to the confusion in that some individuals have rudimentary eye and pedal glands and others lack them".

    2. Horns: "Only fully adult males have intensely black and swollen necks. However, their most important status symbol is horn length. Growing throughout the life of an animal, horns reflect the age and, by implication, the strength of the bearer. On meeting each other, two males can usually evaluate each other's fighting potential at a glance, and the smaller animal then defers to the larger".

    and Schaller goes on to describe many interesting facets of Bharal and finally concludes:

    ".... The evidence indicates that bharal are basically goats. Some of their sheeplike traits can be ascribed to convergent evolution, the species having settled in a habitat usually occupied by sheep. This is more than merely a situation of behaviour modified by change. Bharal remain rather generalized. Their horns are fairly short bashing instruments, not quite like those of either sheep or goats. In their glandular structure, in their use of the penis, and in other traits, bharal show an evolutionary hesitation to specialize - they have straddled an evolutionary fence. They could become either sheep or goats with only minor alterations, and if I had to design a hypothetical ancestor of these two forms it would look much like a bharal. Bharal probably split from goat stock shortly after the sheep and goats diverged from their common ancestor to develop along separate evolutionary paths".

    He had also mentioned one incident like yours. He had observed this in a place in Nepal.
    "Six bharal were grazing on a slope when suddenly two wolves - large, silvery-gray beasts-bounded downhill toward them, the speed of their attack hampered by the procumbent junipers over which they had to leap. Bunching up, the bharal raced to a cliff below. The wolves almost succeeded in overtaking a lagging female, but she angled sharply downhill, barely escaping onto a precipice. The foiled wolves returned up the slope, where they rejoined two others who had not participated in the chase. Six hours later the bharal still lingered near the safety of their cliff".

    The altitude you had mentioned, will attract the snow leopard in the winters. So the cause of the alarm might be because of wolf/wolves or even a leopard. The Himalayan Black bear always ready to appropriate a kill, however, in this case I would rule out a bear.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    Hi Dileep,
    Though I had mentioned film camera, I was not really talking about the cameras that use film. Even the films these days - some of the big budget Hollywood ones - are being shot in digital. I am thinking of going for a 4K camera. After completing a film completely shot with my Mark IV, I have realised that though the low light capability is phenomenal, my eyes still want for more details than the 1080p (Full high definition) abilities of this camera. Still not decided either way.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    A beautiful picture of the Bharal which has come out nice and sharp.It would have been exciting to trek the Himalayas,with so many species looking different from the South Indian ones.Excellent capture.

    Thanks to Sabya for the remarcable information on the goat-sheep...that is Bharal.

    Regards

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    Default Bharal

    Hello Dileep,
    A superb picture. Here is some general info for the Himalayan region
    Nyan: The Nyan or Big-Horned sheep is the also known as the Great Tibetan sheep. Male Nyan use their huge curving horns (up to 145 cm long) to fight during breeding season and can be seen charging at each other on the slopes above 4,500 m in north-eastern Ladakh.

    Urial: The Urial, also called the Shapu, is among the smallest sheep worldwide; their horns are almost as long as their bodies. Found at altitudes of 3000-4000 m, the Urial are easy prey for local hunters.

    Wildlife in Ladakh Bharal: The Bharal or Blue Sheep is a so called because of the gray-blue color of its hairy coat. Found at altitudes of over 6,000 m, the Bharal is unusual in that it possess characteristics of both sheep and goats.

    Ibex: The Ibex is an impressive goat with huge horns curving backwards in a spiral. The horns can grow to a length of 147 cm. Usually seen in herds of 10-16 the Ibex are surefooted goats and can be seen climbing the steepest of cliffs in Ladakh.

    Chiru: The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is an endangered animal. The fine wool from its underbelly is used to make Shahtoosh - an incredible soft woolen fiber made into shawls and stoles. Seen in the Aksai Chin region, Chiru are usually seen in small herds and are a protected species. Trade in Shahtoosh has also been banned by the government to ensure the survival of the Chiru.
    The Major Predator
    Snow Leopard: The beautiful and elusive Snow Leopard is the main predator of the Himalayan region. It preys on the wild sheep and goats of the Ladakh region. In recent times however the increasing spread of domesticated herds of goats has led to pressure on the Snow Leopards range. These beautiful animals are under threat from poachers for their silver gray pelt and are an endangered species.
    And More Info
    Ladakh Wildlife


    Ladakh has a distinct alpine, floral and faunal variety. Several flowering plants, a dozen important mammals and over a hundred species of birds are found here in this rugged terrain. Most of the species are classified as endangered or rare.

    The wild yak is to be found only here. Other animals include the ibex, blue sheep, bharal, docile marmot and mouse hare. Black necked crane, bar-headed geese, ducks and several other water birds breed near the lakes in thousands. The avid bird watcher can spend friutful hours by observing Bactrian magpies, grey tits, chough, raven, sparrow, kite, kestrel, Turkoman rock pigeon, chukor, finches, buntings, larks, desert wheateaters, a many more varieties of birds.

    The snow leopard is Ladakh's most rare animal. Another one that is unique is the kyang or the wild horse, while at lower altitudes the musk deer too is a rare sight, precious by virtue of its expensive musk. Visitors are likely to spot many marmots, mouse hares, stone martens, red foxes, wolves, ibex, bharal and shapu during the course of their journey but the habitat of the nyan (big horned sheep), chim (Tibetan antelope famed for its fleece-Shahtoosh), goa (Tibetan gazelle), lynx, pallas cat, kyamg (wild horse) and brong dong (wild yak) are still outside the tourists' domain.



    Yak

    The largest animal of the cold desert is the yak (dong), a yak wild ox. First described only a century ago by the famous Russian naturalist-- explorer, N.M.Przewalski, the wild yak is definitely more imposing than its placid domestic counterpart. Immensely shaggy and weighing about a tone it has curved horns whose tips can be as wide apart as 90 cm. and measure 76 cm. over the curves. It can easily be distinguished by its long black hair, which is tinged with gray at the muzzle. Spending its summers at a height above 6,000 meters, in winter it moves in herds to the lakes, marshes and lower valleys


    Nayan

    All the world's sheep are closely related and zoologists generally believe that each kind is only a variation of the same species. The largest and most magnificent of wild sheep is the nyan also called the Great Tibetan sheep (Ovis ammon). Roughly 200 of these antelope - like animals are found in the extreme eastern portion of Ladakh. The horns of the nyan measure up to 145 cm. and the animal normally remains at a great height, rarely descending to a level below 4,500 meters.



    Urial

    The urial or shapu, (Ovis orientalis), which weighs 85 Kg. and has horns measuring upto 99 cm., is the smallest of the world sheep in eastern Asia, its body just about as tall as its horns. These sheep prefer the grassy mountain slopes, usually at a height of 3,000-4,000 meters. The meeting of this species, as is the case with most sheep during December-January and they give birth to their young around May. The need for protection of the urial is great as they are with in easy reach of hunters. Their numbers have been declining rapidly and it is estimated that there are no more than 500 in Ladakh, while a survey by the Wildlife Department of Jammu & Kashmir puts another population in the Markha and Rumbak valleys at only around 34-50.The most common and wide spread of the sheep in the Ladakh region is the bharal or the blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur). Found at an altitude of almost 6,000 meters, in summer they graze in huge herds on the rich and abundant grasses of the alpine meadows. Their brownish-gray coloring provides them with protective camouflage and as they often stand motionless they can be extremely difficult to spot but, when alarmed, bharal will bolt swiftly to safety. Strangely, bharal seem to bear some morphological traits of both sheep and goats.



    Ibex

    Of the goats in the region, ibex (Capra ibex) are the most distinctive and beautiful. Sporting a pair of fine curved, spiral horns measuring as much as 147 cm. (the largest on record), the large stocky ibex normally move in herds of 10-16.They prefer the black precipitous rocks and cliffs and consequently roam much higher than the smaller wild goats, descending, however, in winter to lower altitudes to feed and shelter. The Wildlife Department of J&K estimate that around 250 ibex exist in Kanji Nala.

    Inhabiting the steppes of this Tibetan plateau are too small creatures not generally associated with high altitudes, the Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata) and the chiru (Pantholops hodgsoni). The former, sighted very rarely on the eastern fringe of Ladakh, sport horns measuring 36 cm. and are generally seen in herds of 5-10. The later also called Tibetan antelopes, are strange little animals with beautiful horns measuring up to 69 cm. Chiru inhabit the Aksai Chin and Tibetan plateau, usually above 5,000 meters. Also found in western Ladakh are the much persecuted musk deer and kiangs- the handsome , sleek, rust and white colored wild asses, whose estimated population is around 1,500.



    Predators
    (Snow leopard, Brown bear, Wolf, Lynx)

    High in the mountains, this solitary animal hunts goats, ibex, blue sheep and shapu by following them up and down the slopes in their seasonal migration. During the winter, snow leopards stalk the lower mountains, often feeding on domestic stock. Observations seem to indicate that this animal hunts in the early morning and late afternoons. Despite the heavy toll taken by poachers, the population of the snow leopard in Ladakh is estimated to be roughly 200. With almost 40-50 skins smuggled out of Ladakh in the 1950's, 30-40 in the 1960's and 10-15 still being slipped out, the main enemy of this animal is, undoubtedly, man. Two other carnivores inhabiting this mountain home for the great bears.

    The medium-sized Himalayan black bear (Selenarctos thlbetanus), a forest dweller, is found up to heights of 4,500 meters in the summer. Like most bears it feeds on practically anything ranging from fruit and ripe corn to sheep, goats, deer and even termites. Its usual home is in dug-out hollows or caves. Further up the mountain lives the more adaptive brown bear (Ursus arctos) which has a population of around 200(of which approximately 20 are found in the Kargil area- the rest in the Zanskar valley). Three or four pairs of black bears have also been spotted here during the months of July and August when fruits like apricots and apples ripen.

    The wolf population in Ladakh is likely to be around 300 and consists of two basic varieties. The northern race is light fawn and brown whereas the southern is invariably darker. These wolves, probably the most hated predators in Ladakh, hunt in pairs and move over vast territories. It is observed one particular regularly moving across a narrow valley at dusk. The red fox exists in larger numbers but many are, unfortunately trapped for fur. From western Ladakh alone, about skins are possibly smuggled out every year. The stone marten, a pretty, alert and active animal is also hunted for its fur; again about 400 skins are smuggled out annually.



    Snow leopard

    The snow leopard inhabits the high mountains of Central Asia, and within India, is found along the northern border, in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir includes a large area of potential habitat and reports indicate that a relatively undistributed snow leopard population may exist in a few sites. Since the Ladakh area is known to support snow leopard populations, and some of the habitat is fairly accessible, this may prove to be a feasible study site for ecological investigation. The snow leopard is considered endangered in every region in which it is found. Three factors contribute towards a decline in its population. Firstly, the animal is hunted by the locals for its valuable pelt and also to protect livestock. Secondly, ungulate prey of the snow leopard, wild sheep and goats, have been reduced by hunting for human consumption and thirdly, domestic livestock has displaced wild ungulates from their grazing areas. If this trend continues, it is doubtful whether the snow leopard will survive, except in a few isolated areas or in captivity. The Fifth International Snow Leopard Symposium , which took place from October 13-15,1986, in Srinagar, was attended by representatives from over 21 countries. Its basic purpose is to promote measures and exchange information which will help to ensure the perpetuation of viable breeding populations of the species.

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