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Threatened Gazelles of Hanle


Dodging because of the crowded excessive road of Leh, we frantically appeared for camera battery and excellent top quality movie rolls as we have been to go away for Hanle to look for the Tibetan gazelle, a tiny antelope. We rushed towards the Moti market with makeshift outlets advertising trinkets. The consumers and the shopkeepers appeared to be experiencing the blaring Bollywood songs. A winter journey to Hanle in Changthang meant we essential to have lots of woolens, and we generously purchased bundles of woolen socks and mittens. Just one audio shop, selling low priced audio tapes, was playing from a most up-to-date Ladakhi soundtrack, which was nice, and I acquired it for the street.

 The upcoming day was sunny but the chilly wind was not rather encouraging. The encompassing mountains of Leh had been nonetheless underneath heavy snow from the earlier week. Our spirits have been nevertheless excessive, and we stuffed the back of my all-terrain auto with provisions and clothing. Shortly we squashed into the car or truck, but the device seemed to have surrendered to the aspects and arrived to lifestyle incredibly reluctantly. When filling up the fuel tank, we rolled down in direction of Changthang. The Indus river had turned turquoise-blue, and glaring floes gyrated down its serene surface area.

I at all times enjoy driving up the Indus valley in winter months. It is quite common to see wild animals around the road in the course of this time as they descend to avoid the large snow in the increased reaches. But seeing that the valley is rich in wild animals, we also see tons of animals like blue sheep all through summer time, way too. In the afternoon we arrived at the spot the place we had found 3 snow leopards the past summer. A mother and her two cubs had descended to drink from the river, and had been returning when we crossed paths with them. Following crossing the tarmac street, the mother jumped around the fence to the left, but the cubs took a detour soon after flimsy attempts to abide by their mother in excess of the fence. They had been the cutest of creatures I had experienced in my lifestyle. We speedily scanned the area to get out if that was their favorite drinking spot! 

We arrived in Hanle in the evening, and I indulged in a hot shower. Contrary to the frequent energy cuts in Leh, there is 24x7 electrical power supply in Hanle, thanks to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics that operates a excessive altitude observatory there. When at Astrophysics campus, just one can do an array of activities: browse the the web, play ping-pong, watch tv, perform cricket, etc. I typically conclude up partying with the engineers who had been my classmates in college. Summertime also delivers the possibility to go for a picnic in the lush meadows on the financial institutions of Hanle river.

I woke up to a grand surroundings the following morning. The huge peaks on the distant horizon have been bathed in a golden light of the sun. Smoke billowed from the one area structures spilled through the left bank of the Hanle river. Once a large breakfast of unleavened flat-bread and scrambled eggs, my assistant Paljor and I drove in direction of the Kalak Tartar Plateau to seem for the small-scale remnant population of gazelles. I was advised by some villagers that the carapace of ice on the Hanle river is formidable ample to assist our vehicle, so we made the decision to keep clear of the lengthier summer season-route. Once at Kalak Tartar, Paljor and I scanned the tawny slopes that had been stripped bare by the fierce wind.

All appeared lifeless right up until a lone Kiang or Tibetan wild ass plodded across a slope partially covered with snow. A number of choughs exhibiting their acrobatics in the horizon asserted the avifaunal presence. As we scanned the place further more, even more kiangs came into check out some ended up basking in the sun, some combating and some loitering. But the gazelles were nowhere to be seen. We drove to the northern edge of the plateau and searched the slopes facing Hanle village, but to no avail. But earlier than long, 5 stylish gazelles walked gracefully in a file more than a ridgeline to the south. 'One sighting in a couple of hours is encouraging, presented the pretty smaller population', assumed I.

Herds of sheep and goats grazed the slopes afar to the southeast. These domestic animals are comparable to gazelles in most of their ecological necessities, and therefore compete with gazelles for standard assets like small nutritious herbs that benefit them survive by means of the severe winter. The goat population of the Hanle valley greater nearly twofold in the previous couple of a long time, as desire for Pashmina, the excellent fibre produced by these goats amplified. As a result the potential of gazelle in Hanle is precarious because of to pasture degradation related with burgeoning livestock population.

As the day progressed, we made the decision to make hot lunch. The only shelter on this wind swept plateau was my all-intent-vehicle. We folded its seats and melted snow on a kerosene stove. Prompt noodles ended up served in a small whilst. As we sat inside the auto, slurping on the warm noodles, the outdoors look at acquired blocked by a fogged windshield. But we could effortlessly trade-off briefly the outdoors watch for inside of warmth. Paljor crafted tea instantly getting taken quite a few this kind of trips well before, he had considerably honed his superior altitude culinary competencies. In the afternoon we went around as soon as extra looking for gazelle, but there was none and we headed back again to the village.

In the night I talked to Ishey Gyatso, an acquaintance, to see if he could accompany me on the survey in the mountains additional up the valley. He readily agreed, and proposed that we do the survey on horseback. We left on horses early the up coming day. It took sometime for me to get utilized to the one of a kind gait of the minor horse. Quickly we have been on a saddle-formed pass main into the Giagra valley. We searched the slopes in this valley with binoculars and spotting scope, but we could see only kiangs. As the slope additionally-on was steep, Ishey dismounted and led the horse across, whilst he insisted that I keep on riding.

4 hrs of riding had gnawed on my human body. Ishey presented to make butter tea and scampered around looking for dry yak dung and bushes to make a fire. I was impressed by his feat of collecting fuel sufficient to cook a meal for two customers within no time. I pompously sat and scanned the place, when Ishey lit a fireplace and developed tea. Shortly, I spotted a group of 5 gazelles on a distant slope, but as it was positioned far-off, I could not notify irrespective of whether that was the identical group that we had spotted the preceding day or a new group.

We ongoing our journey, and in the afternoon arrived at a nomad camp. An outdated guy was basking in the sun, twirling a minimal prayer wheel. His tanned and creased deal with spoke of the severe elements of the area. A enormous Tibetan mastiff stared at me, but accepted me as one of the nomads. But I wasn't so fortunate with some people which barked fiercely right up until we acquired into a Ribo or the nomad tent blackened with smoke and soot. All the guys around squashed into the tent to greet Ishey, who I came to know was a well known figure in the place. There was an open up hearth, which was stuffed with yak dung by the residence-girl. Tea was served in plastic cups lined up on an improvised stone table. I told the credulous nomads about the plight of the gazelle, and they listened with rapt attention.

The small-scale gazelle population in Hanle is the biggest surviving population of the animal in India. Whilst, there is a sizable population in Sikkim, the animals there move back again and forth involving India and Tibet, China. The gazelle had a wider distribution in Ladakh in the past, but hunting and habitat degradation have led to its assortment contraction. If corrective measures are not used properly in time, the species may perhaps soon turned out to be extinct in India. This will be a serious damage to the native people today of Changthang in certain and Indians in basic. I explained to Ishey's pals how defending this little population of gazelle will promote tourism in the area in the coming decades. All of them nodded in unison.

As the day wore down, we left the put. The horses galloped because of a wide valley previously climbing up a gravelly slope. We stopped on a huge ridgeline, and a difficult scan yielded 6 gazelles on a slope across the valley. Ishey told me that the animals graze approximately that place frequently in the course of that time of the yr. We left the destination with company resolution of returning back to get out why the animals haunt the put. Quickly stars sprang forth in the sky. We rode in pitch darkish, and only Ishey could notify how far we have been from his camp. A single hour journey towards the biting cold wind brought us to Ishey's Ribo, wherever his wife and kids have been waiting with tea and momos or steam-cooked stuffed dumplings ready to be served. We acquired inside the tent and savoured them. Ishey animatedly instructed his friends and family about the day's journey though I scribbled in my notice ebook. Up coming morning I thanked Ishey and his household for all their assist and hospitality and left them, entrusting them with the obligation of trying to keep an eye on the gazelles right until I following returned.

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