Wildlife Holiday News

Snow Leopards Sought - & Found - in Ladakh

 

Snow Leopard by Russell Scott

Tour leader Nick Acheson led our very successful Snow Leopard Quest in Ladakh, India this February. Here are a few excerpts from his Snow Leopard Quest diary …
Sunday 24th February
With trepidation I decided to take the group into Hemis National Park a day early, as I'd heard news of a male Snow Leopard on a kill being seen very well. In the morning there was quite heavy snow in Leh. Would we able to travel? We were delayed by the snowy roads but we left. We drove to the trailhead at Zingchen where a Golden Eagle circled auspiciously overhead. From here we made the long slog past yesterday's kill (now abandoned). We made a final push up a steep, snowy, very slippery slope from which people were watching two dozing Snow Leopards at around 800m from us. A yellowish-grey older male was asleep on the rock-face below; a whitish female above. We watched for two and a half hours and in the evening, as we prepared to leave to set up our camp, the female nuzzled the male into consciousness and the two sloped off across the scree, trailing their impossibly long, fluffy tails.

Tuesday 26th February
We ascended Husing Valley early in the morning. As we got higher up the valley we turned to see a female Snow Leopard and her 8-month old cub crossing the ridge a few hundred metres behind us. We rushed back to the viewpoint in the valley they'd entered (inasmuch as it's possible to rush at 3,500m). The female and cub were settling down in a V-shaped cleft in the hillside several 100m away. We stayed the rest of the day, enjoying a picnic lunch brought by the boys - delicious. In the afternoon the female crossed whole valley to stalk Blue Sheep on the far slope of the Husing Valley. She crossed the whole magnificent landscape in view and got to within 20m above the sheep before freezing. One sheep was clearly aware something was up, and two more peacefully grazed. There was a 20-minute stand-off before the alert sheep raised its tail in alarm and all moved down the slope with speed. The female moved to a rock and sulked on top of it. Later she crossed the whole landscape back again and called her cub, which left the V-shaped cleft above us where it had spent the whole day. Six and a half hours in the company of Snow Leopards. Utterly wonderful!

Thursday 28th February
Today we went back up the valley where we'd seen the first courting Snow Leopard pair. Saw Red Fox and Blue Sheep along the way. We didn’t see the pair, but we did see a dozing (presumed young) male Snow Leopard (clearly different facially from the first male). He dozed all day in the sun, and in full view, occasionally moving position. Six and a half hours of Snow Leopard viewing again … and the male moved all of 20m! We saw him very distantly from camp on our return as he wandered off into the late afternoon to hunt.

After a full day out in the valleys, we spent the evening returning to the Husing Valley trailhead. Most went back to camp but news came of another Snow Leopard at the base of Rumbak Valley, so we rushed back up the slope, past a Woolly Hare. Fantastic views down to 200m, as this young male (almost certainly a sixth individual) peered down from the snowy ridge above us. We left him in peace and the next day left Hemis elated.

Read more about our 'Ladakh - A Snow Leopard Quest' holiday.