Mouton bleu de l’Himalaya
Mouton bleu de l’Himalaya Intoduction
The Blue sheep, Pseudois nayaur, is often called naur or bharal in Nepal. It belongs to the order Artiodactyla of the sub family Caprinae of the family Bovidae. Brein Hodgson, a naturalist (1800-1894), first described the blue sheep as Ovis nayaur assuming it as a sheep. Later after studying its affinities he gave the genus name ‘Pseudois’. The animal is treated to be a goat with sheep like affinities (Schaller, 1980). Generally two species - Pseudois nayaur (blue sheep) and Pseudois schaeferi (dwarf blue sheep)- of Genus Pseudois are known to occur. Physical characteristics
The blue sheep is related to goat (Capra) and sheep (Ovis) in physical and structural characters (Schaller, 1973). It is handsome Caprineae, covering the body skin with ashy grey mixed with slate-blue hair. The coloration is not uniform. In back, there is a longitudinal stripe of darker color from head to tail. The coloration of the body becomes darker with the ages (Sherpa & Oli, 1988). The front side of legs is black, which extends to the abdomen followed by white hair. The colorations perfectly match with its surroundings. It has long robust limbs, narrow erected ears and backwardly curved horns. Adult male weighs of 60 to 75 kg (Schaller, 1973). Distribution and status
Blue sheep is found in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan (Oli, 1991). In Nepal it occurs in north of the main Himalayan range (Schaller, 1977). The blue sheep are found in drier mountain areas that receive about and less than 1000 mm annual precipitation (Wilson, 1981). It is common in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (Wegge, 1976; Wilson, 1981), Shey Phoksundo National Park (Schaller, 1977, 1980). They are found above the tree line (4000m) up to 5500m in northern Kanchenjuga conservation area, too. Blue sheep is not threatened species in Nepal; it is listed as lower risk (nt) animal in the red list of Threatened Animals (IUCN, 1996). HMG/Nepal protects the animal under schedule II of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, 2029 (HMG/NPWC, 1973). Population and herd size
Blue sheep population in Nepal is expected to be 10000 animals in 15000km2 (Wegge & Oli, 1997). The crude densities of blue sheep in four areas (Dhorpatan, Manang, Lapche and Shey) in Nepal ranged from a low of 0.7 to high of 6.6-10.2/km2 (Schaller, 1977). The herd size ranged from 1 to 162 (Sherpa & Oli, 1988,Wegge, 1976), and average group size of 11 (Wegge, 1976). Habit and Habitat
The blue sheep are cliff dwellers. They live in extremely high altitude of cold climate. They are largely found on grassland or alpine meadows dominated by Kobresia spp. mixed with Vicatia spp., Astragalus spp., Euphorbia spp., Carex spp., Potentilla spp., Chesneya spp., Bistorta spp., Poa spp., etc. When the grassland is covered by snow they survive on shrub like Potentilla fructicosa, Berberis mucrifolia, Ephedra gerardiana, Lonicera rupicola, Juniperus spp. etc. For the feeding purpose they move on northern slope in late summer and early autumn (Wegge, 1976). The extensive diurnal movement can be observed. In the early morning they go to feed on grassy area. At afternoon they feed more and go for bedding for the night (Wegge, 1976). Like other herbivores they have the habit of visiting ‘salt licks’ from white substance seeped from cracks (Schaller, 1977). The main period of mating is November and December. The young is born between April and June. The gestation period is 160 days and one female generally gives one lamb (Schaller, 1973). Importance
According to Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project, there are large numbers of blue sheep in Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. As it is the main prey species of snow leopard (Oli, 1991), an extinct species from the world, blue sheep play vital role in its conservation. The conservation of blue sheep also helps attract tourists for trophy hunting. Furthermore, its conservation is necessary for balancing the healthy environment. References:
HMG/ NPWC, 1973. National Park and Wildlife Conservation ACT 2029. Kathmandu: Ministry of Law of Law and Justice.
IUCN, 1996. IUCN Red List of Threatened animals. IUCN, Gland, Swetzerland Oli, M. K., 1991. The Ecology and Conservation of the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. Thesis Submitted for the degree of Master of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh. 155p.