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Habitat and Feeding Ecology of Ladakh Urial (Ovis vignei vignei) in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Habitat and Feeding Ecology of Ladakh Urial (Ovis vignei vignei) in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Muhammad Siraj-ud-Din1,2, Riaz Aziz Minhas1, Usman Ali3,*, Mayoor Khan2, Muhammad Siddique Awan1, Nuzhat Shafi1 and Basharat Ahmad1

1Department of Zoology, University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Muzaffarabad 13100, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan
2Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Gilgit-Baltistan 15100, Pakistan
3Department of Zoology, Mirpur University of Science and Technology, Mirpur 10250, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan

M. Siraj-ud-Din and Riaz Aziz Minhas contributed equally to this work.

*      Corresponding author: usman.zoology@must.edu.pk

ABSTRACT

Ladakh urial or shapu (Ovis vignei vignei) is an endangered wild sheep still occurring in small pockets in certain areas of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) besides Ladakh in India. The present study was conducted to determine habitat use and feeding preference of urial in Gilgit Baltistan. Current study is the first and only detailed study about the habitat and feeding ecology of these wild sheep in Pakistan. The study provides baseline data about the study topic which will help conservation management of the species in the area. The habitat use of urial was determined on the basis of direct or indirect evidence (e.g. animal sightings, fecal pallets and hairs) in different habitats. Information on food consumption was collected by using scan sampling technique and also collected from local people, hunters and shepherds (n=78). During scan sampling, focused feeding animals were observed with the help of a telescope and spotting scope. Ladakh urial preferred montane dry sub-tropical scrub zone habitat with 41.87% evidences of its presence followed by alpine meadows/alpine scrub zone (21.14%), sub-alpine scrub zone (13.41%), and dry temperate coniferous forests (8.54%). On the other hand, agricultural lands (3.24%) and dry alpine zone/permanent snowfield (3.66%) were the least preferred habitats of urial in Gilgit Baltistan. Thirty-six (36) plant species were recorded to be consumed by the Ladakh urial in Gilgit Baltistan. Ladakh urial used Artemisia maritima (n=53) with 18.34% of observations followed by Olea ferruginea (n=28, 9.69%), Ephedra intermedia (n=25, 8.65%), Pistacia khinjuk and Ephedra gerardiana (n=23, 7.69%). Out of 36 plant species, 15 were consumed during summer (June to August), 10 in spring (April-May), six (6) in autumn (September-October) and five (5) in winter (February-March). Conservation of threatened Ladakh urial could be achieved by protecting its potential habitat and preferred food plant species.
 

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology

October

Vol. 50, Iss. 5, Pages 1601-1998

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