Monday, 26 February 2018

On the Tibetan Plateau, November 2017: Gazelles and Blue Sheep

Tibetan Gazelles (Procapra picticaudata) inhabit the Tibetan Plateau of China, with just a few occurring in India. It was a species I was hoping to see and we did. Small herds appeared some distance away as dawn broke. Although we could see them clearly through binoculars, it was too dark for photography. Later, as we drove across the grassland, a single gazelle was by the road.

Described by Brian Hodgson in 1846, the Tibetan Gazelle is now far less common than it once was owing to hunting and deterioration of its habitat caused by domestic livestock. It is classified as Near Threatened by IUCN.

Another species (also first described by Hodgson) of the mountainsides that surround the Plateau is the Blue Sheep (Pseudois nayour) and it was here that we had our best view of them. A large flock feeding and resting on the steep grassy slope of an alpine meadow was behaving just as it says in the book. Classified of Least Concern by IUCN they are the favoured prey of Snow Leopards. Their range extends into Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan and the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan.

These two species, as well as some other mammals and birds can be seen in my video taken over three days on the Plateau and ending with a heavy snow fall as we drove south from Ruoergai.