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Key Facts About the Himalayan Wolf


The Himalayan Wolf (Canis lupus chanco), a prominent lupine predator found across the Himalayas has been assessed for the first time in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Facts About the Himalayan Wolf
  2. About the IUCN Red List
  3. Factors Contributing to the Decline of Himalayan Wolf Population
  4. Measures to Protect Himalayan Wolves

Key Facts About the Himalayan Wolf:

Habitat and Distribution:

  • Inhabits the high elevations of the Himalayas in China, Nepal, India, and Bhutan.
  • Typically found in alpine meadows and grasslands at elevations ranging from 10,000 to 18,000 feet.

Genetic Characteristics:

  • Distinctive genetic markers; mitochondrial DNA suggests a genetic foundation predating the Holarctic grey wolf.

Behavior and Diet:

  • Travels in small packs.
  • Hunts wild sheep and goats, and occasionally preys on marmots, hares, and birds.

Population Status:

  • Estimated population of 2,275-3,792 mature individuals.
  • Mainly concentrated in a subpopulation across the Himalayan range of Nepal, India, and the Tibetan Plateau.
  • Indian section hosts 227-378 mature individuals, primarily in Ladakh and Spiti Valley.

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable.
  • Protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, under Schedule I.

About the IUCN Red List:

Purpose and Significance:

  • Global resource for assessing the risk of extinction among animals, fungi, and plant species.
  • Crucial indicator of global biodiversity health, offering insights into species’ characteristics, threats, and conservation measures.

Red List Categories:

  • Defines the extinction risk with categories ranging from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct).
  • Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU) indicate species threatened with extinction.

Role in Conservation and Development Goals:

  • Key indicator for Sustainable Development Goals and Aichi Targets.

IUCN Green Status of Species:

  • Assesses the recovery of species’ populations and measures conservation success.
  • Eight Green Status Categories, including Extinct in the Wild, Critically Depleted, Fully Recovered, etc.

Conservation Impact Assessment:

  • Green Status assessment examines how conservation actions have influenced the current Red List status.

Factors Contributing to the Decline of Himalayan Wolf Population:

Habitat Degradation:

  • Ongoing reduction in the area, extent, and quality of habitat.

Depredation Conflict:

  • Seasonal or permanent high livestock abundance in wolf habitats triggers conflicts.
  • Negative attitudes towards wolf conservation and retaliatory killing arise due to these conflicts.

Interbreeding with Domestic Dogs:

  • Increasing problem in Ladakh and Spiti due to interbreeding.
  • More feral dogs in these areas contribute to hybridization.
  • Competition for resources, such as territory and prey, intensifies between wolves and wolf-dog hybrids.

Illegal Hunting:

  • Wolves are hunted for trade in fur and body parts, including paws, tongues, heads, and other body parts.
  • Hunting is not legal in all range states but remains a threat.

Measures to Protect Himalayan Wolves:

Habitat Conservation:

  • Secure and restore healthy wild prey populations and landscapes.
  • Establish wildlife habitat refuges.

Livestock Protection:

  • Improve livestock guarding methods, including predator-proof corral pens.
  • Implement sustainable livestock herding practices, such as reduced livestock loads and adapted herding.

Management of Feral Dogs:

  • Manage populations of feral dogs to preserve ecological balance in wolf habitats.

Transboundary Cooperation:

  • Emphasize the interconnectedness of wolf populations across borders.
  • Implement coordinated research and monitoring initiatives to ensure unimpeded movement and safeguard natural behaviors.

-Source: Down To Earth

February 2024