The Tibet Autonomous Region of China is one of the world’s most remote and rugged locations. Surrounded by lofty mountains, massive ice fields, and glaciers, the Tibetan Plateau is extremely difficult to access. Additionally, extreme cold winds and frigid temperatures can make life in Tibet difficult. However, certain forms of nature are adapted to thrive in such harsh environments. Some of the animal species that live in Tibet are highlighted below.
8. Tibetan Sand Fox
The Tibetan sand fox (Vulpes ferrilata) is a species of true fox that is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and nearby mountainous regions of Nepal, Bhutan, and India. The species inhabits arid desert and steppes habitats, and can live at altitudes as high as 5,300 m. Due to its wide range in the mountains, the Tibetan sand fox is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. The animal has a small size and compact shape, dense fur coat, bushy tails, and narrow muzzles, all of which are adaptations to living in cold environments. The Tibetan sand fox preys and feeds on animals such as plateau pikas, marmots, rodents, lizards, and hares.
7. Tibetan Wolf
The Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus filchneri) is a subspecies of gray wolf that inhabits the Tibetan Autonomous Region and surrounding areas. Although the mitochondrial DNA of the species indicates that it is the same as the Himalayan wolf, its whole genome sequencing indicates that it is the most genetically divergent wolf population. The Tibetan wolf has a woolly fur that is paler in color than most wolves, which is an adaptation to help the species survive in its cold environment. The species is rarely seen by humans, as it prefers to live away from areas of human habitation. However, occasional attacks on children and livestock have been reported.
6. Tibetan Blue Bear
The Tibetan blue bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus) is a subspecies of the brown bear that inhabits the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. Referred to locally as Dom gyamuk, it is among the rarest bear subspecies in the world, and is rarely sighted in the wild. As a result, little is known about the Tibetan blue bear's habitat and behavior. It is believed that the Tibetan blue bear served as an inspiration for the legend of the yeti. For example, during a 1960 expedition in search of the yeti led by New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, the team returned with scraps of fur that were identified by locals as “yeti fur.” However, scientific investigation later revealed that the fur was actually the pelt of a Tibetan blue bear.
The kiang (Equus kiang) is the largest of the wild asses and is native to the Tibetan Plateau. The species inhabits the alpine and montane grasslands of Tibet, northern Nepal, and Ladakh. The kiang has a large head, convex nose, blunt muzzle, a short upright mane, and the color of its coat ranges from dark brown in winter to reddish brown in the late summer. The species are herbivores and feed primarily on grass and sedges. Kiangs tend to live in herds and defend themselves by violently kicking and biting. Wolves are the primary predator of the kiang.
4. Tibetan Gazelle/Goa
The Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata), also called the Tibetan goa, is an antelope species that inhabits the Tibetan plateau. The species lives in alpine meadow and montane steppe habitats, usually at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 5,750 m. The Tibetan gazelle is small in size, with grayish-brown fur, and a short tail that has a black tip. Additionally, they have long, thin legs that enable them to run from predators, and males have long and tapered ridges horns. The Tibetan gazelle lives in small family groups rather than herds, and are therefore more vulnerable to predators than other species of ungulates. The species are herbivores that feed on forbs and legumes. Given significant declines in population due to habitat loss, the IUCN Red List classifies the Tibetan gazelle as a "Near Threatened" species.
3. Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog breed from the mastiff family that traces its origins to the nomadic cultures of Tibet. The dog species was bred by nomads to guard livestock against predators such as wolves, bears, and leopards. As a result, the Tibetan Mastiff has retained the instincts and hardiness required to survive in the harsh habitats of Tibet and other parts of the Himalayas. This includes a large body, double coat of fur, and canine pack behaviors.
2. Plateau Pika
The plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae), also known as the black-lipped pika, inhabits the Tibetan Plateau and nearby areas at elevations ranging between 3,100 m and 5,000 m. The species can survive in a wide range of habitats including alpine deserts, meadows and steppes, and even montane forests. Despite its small size, the plateau pika is considered a keystone species in its ecosystem, as it helps recycle nutrients in the soil and is a source of food for predators such as foxes, falcons, and wolves.
1. Other Animals That Inhabit Tibet
Carnivores such as the snow leopard, red fox, Asian badger, Pallas's cat, and Eurasian cat also inhabit the Tibet Plateau. Even-toed ungulates in the region include Przewalski's gazelle, goitered gazelle, Tibetan antelope, domestic yak, Thorold's deer, Kansu red deer, and Sichuan deer. Additionally, other mammalian species that inhabit the Tibet Plateau include the woolly hare, Tsing-ling pika, Glover's pika, Gansu pika, Przewalski's steppe lemming, Tibetan dwarf hamster, and Himalayan marmot.