The world is divided by animal geographers; several areas called zoogeographic regions, on the basis of their animal life. These areas, also known as faunal regions, roughly coincide with major continental land masses and are separated by geographical features such as oceans and mountain ranges. Each of these regions has a distinct fauna on account of its habitat and isolation from the other regions. Almost all of India falls within the faunal region known as the Oriental or the Indomalayan region.
Ladakh, in contrast, with an extent of about 117,000 square kilometres and forming the western part of the Tibetan Plateau, belongs to the Palaearctic region, which includes Europe, Northern Africa and Northern Asia — thus it has a fauna very different from that of the rest of India. The appeal of Ladakh’s wildlife lies not only in this uniqueness. It also derives from the remoteness and harshness of the land. Ladakh, consisting mainly of high plains, brackish lakes and deep valleys, is situated 2700 metres above the sea level. It is very sparsely populated and it is so cold in places like the Zanskar region that people and cattle remain indoors for much of the year. It gets less than 10 centimetres of rain on average annually. Its vegetation is stunted. It is the wildlife of this land that forms the compass of this customized programme. The region has over 300 bird species and 30 mammals.
This wildlife adventure can be undertaken year round, though the best time to see Snow Leopards is between November and May when the Blue sheep come down the valley. The snow leopard of Central and South Asia has a lifespan of 15-18 years and is unable to roar because of the absence of the larynx. Well known for its beautiful fur, the snow leopard has a whitish-tan coat with ringed spots of dark, ashy-brown and rosettes of black. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottoms of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold. Early snow can push wild animals on to lower slopes. It is also a time of rut of one of the major prey of snow leopard – the blue sheep or bharal. These large wild sheep aggregate on the lower slopes in large numbers. The rut takes place among the most rugged terrain and it allows us to watch them at relatively close range without having to climb the steep mountain slopes. Since these ungulates are favourite snow leopard prey and higher slopes are under snow cover, snow leopard follows its major prey to these slopes. Snow leopard frequents these slopes often.