Context: Despite the severe stress on the species and its declining numbers, the urial continues to hang on.
- Ladakh the arid plateau is home to seven species of ungulates, a little known wild sheep called the urial.
- Shapu, is a local name for the urial.
- The urial is a wild sheep native to Central and South Asia.
- It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- The urial is native to montane areas in the Pamir Mountains, Hindu Kush and Himalayas up to an elevation of 4,500 m (14,800 ft).
- It is distributed from northeastern Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and southwestern Kazakhstan to northern Pakistan and Ladakh in northwestern India.
- It prefers grassland, open woodland and gentle slopes, but also inhabits cold arid zones with little vegetation.
- Despite the impressive size of their horns, urial rams rarely fight.
- Instead, they study their rival’s posture, sizing them up, and usually, the one with an inferiority complex gives way.
- The species’ preference for undulating meadows makes them vulnerable not only to snow leopards and packs of wolves and stray dogs but also humans.
- While hunting still remains a threat, the terrain favoured by the urial is ideal for growing crops, rearing sheep and goats, and building military and tourism infrastructure.
- All of these activities cut off urial populations from each other, leaving herds as small as 15 isolated from others.