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Himalayan Wolf

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The Himalayan wolf (Canis lupus chanco) is known as a canine of debated taxonomy. It can be differentiated by its genetic markers, with mitochondrial DNA signifying that it is genetically basal to the Holarctic grey wolf.

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It is genetically similar to the Tibetan wolf and has a relationship with the African golden wolf (Canis lupaster).

The Himalayan wolf family can be seen living in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau predominantly above 4,000 m in elevation because it has adapted to the low-oxygen environment, compared with other wolf species that are seen in lower elevation.

Some biographers have proposed the reclassification of this linage as a separate wolf species.

The group proposed that this wolf linage be known as the “Himalayan wolf’’ and classified as Canis lupus chanco until a generic analysis of the holotypes is available. The Himalayan wolf needs an accurate morphological analysis.

Scientific classification

DomainEukaryota
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
GenusCanis
SpeciesC. lupus
SubspeciesC. l. chanco

Characteristics

The Himalayan wolf has a woolly, thick fur that is dull earthy- brown on the tail and back, and yellowish-white on the belly, limbs, and face. It is about 45 in (110 cm) long and 30 in (76 cm) tall at the shoulder.

It is larger than the Indian wolf. It has closely spaced black speckles on the muzzle, on the upper cheeks, ears and below the eyes. It weighs an average 77 lb (35 kg).

The heart of the Himalayan wolf can endure the low oxygen level at high elevations. It has a well-built selection for RYR2, a gene that initiate cardiac excitation.   

Behaviour and ecology

The howls of the Himalayan wolf have unmodulated frequencies, lower frequencies, and are shorter in duration compared to Holarctic wolf howls.

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The North African and Himalayan wolves have the most acoustically distinct howls but differ significantly from each other and the Holarctic wolves.  

Prey

The Himalayan wolf prefers to prey on wild prey over domestic animals. They prey on the smaller Tibetan gazelle than the larger white-lipped deer and prefer the plains-dwelling Tibetan gazelle over the cliff-dwelling bharal.

Additional preys include the small woolly hare, pikas, and Himalayan marmot. Himalayan wolves stay away from livestock when wild preys are available, but habitat encroachment and reduction of wild prey population are forecast to lead to conflict with herders.

To defend these wolves, security healthy wild prey population through setting aside wildlife habitat reserves and refuges will be important.

Siberian roe deer, Kiang, Tibetan red deer, wild yak, argali, Siberian ibex, Przewalski’s horse, Bactrian deer, Tarkand deer, markhor, and urial have also been included as prey species of Himalayan wolves.

Historical sources indicate that wolves sometimes kill children in Lahaul and Ladakh. Tibetan wolves are responsible for the reduction of livestock in three villages followed by snow leopards and Eurasian lynx.

The most frequent prey was domestic goat (32%), sheep (30%), yaks (15%), and horses (13%).

Distribution and habitat

In China, the Himalayan wolf resides on the Tibetan Plateau in the provinces of Qinghai, Tibet, western Sichuan, and Gansu.

In northern India, it occurs in eastern Kashmir in the Ladakh region and in northeastern Himachal Pradesh in the Spiti and Lahaul.

In 2004, the Himalayan wolf population in India was estimated to consist of 350 individuals ranging across an area of about 27,000 sq mi (70,000 km2).

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Between 2005 – 2008, it was seen in the alpine meadows above the tree-line northeast of Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand.

In 2013, a picture of a wolf was taken by a camera trap at an elevation around 11,500 ft (3,500 m) in Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar district near the Sunderhunga Glacier.

In Nepal, it was recorded in Api Nampa Conservation Area, Upper Mustang, Upper Humla, Manaslu, Dolpa, and the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. The Nepal Himalayas provide a safe haven for the Himalayan wolf.

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