Asian Mountains and Forests

January Conservation Focus: Mountains

During the month of January, our Conservation focus has been on Mountain habitats, the species that call them home, and ways all of us can help lessen the impact of climate change, deforestation, and human interaction on mountain species. Coming up on January 26-27, the Utica Zoo will be focusing on Asian Mountains and Forests for our Wild Winter Weekend programs where you can learn more about these habitats in person from Zoo Educators.

Ming and Muse
Ming-Yue and Muse-The Utica Zoo’s Red Pandas

Our animal collection cares for several Asian species, most notably the Red Panda who calls the mountainous foothills and forests of Nepal, Myanmar, and China home.

The Importance of Asian Mountains and Forests

In addition to numerous species calling this area home, the high mountain areas of Asia are the beginning of a freshwater system that provides clean water to millions of people. Due to Asia being the home of some of the world’s tallest mountains, the region holds the largest stores of ice and permafrost outside the North and South Poles. These ice stores slowly melt and provide water downstream to support a wide variety of ethnic communities and vast biodiversity. However, due to climate change, these ice stores are melting more quickly, which after time, could prove disastrous for downstream life.

Mountain habitats are also being impacted by deforestation and fragmentation brought on by human industry and farming. As a result, more and more wildlife are coming in contact with humans, which leads to exploitation for meat, pelts, and export into the Black Market pet trade.

Quick Facts

Here are some quick Asian Mountain and Forest facts, courtesy of our friends at World Wildlife Fund:

  • Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are all part of the Asia high mountains ecosystem.
  • The Asia high mountains span the Altai, Tien Shan, Kunlun, Pamir, Hindu Kush, Karakorum, and Himalayas ranges. The world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest is found in the Himalayan range. These mountains harbor an amazing diversity of life. The Eastern Himalayas alone contains some 10,000 species of plant, 900 species of bird, and 300 species of mammal—many of which are found nowhere else on the planet.
  • Mountains capture water from the atmosphere and store it as snow and ice, which melt to supply streams and rivers throughout the year. Half the world’s population depends on mountains for drinking water or hydroelectric power.
  • Species like red pandas, Bengal tigers, blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, and ibex are found in Asia high mountains. The most iconic species of these mountains is the snow leopard, known as the “Ghosts of the Mountain” because of their solitary and elusive nature.
  • The glacial ice and permafrost are the life force of downstream forest areas. Melted ice and snow carry downhill to provide not only flora and fauna with fresh water and nutrients but communities of people as well.

The Impact of Climate Change

Glaciers are melting, snow cover and permafrost are disappearing, and water availability is changing—putting local and downstream communities and ecosystems at risk. Much of the region is highly dependent on seasonal rainfall and glacial runoff, and many communities lack the resources to respond to the effects of a rapidly shifting climate.  In addition, the habitats of several animals could be eliminated. It is estimated that climate change will impact nearly 30% of snow leopard habitats, which will be disastrous for the already endangered species. Furthermore, a quickly shifting habitat will change faster than many species can evolve or adapt. Adaptations such as wide feet, white coat, or the natural cycle of putting on extra body weight for warmth have evolved over many years to suit animals to their environment. It is completely possible the adaptations that some animals rely on to survive, could become their demise.

What You Can Do

Parks, Protected Areas, Conservation Centers, Preserves and Zoos all work to help save species that are being impacted by climate change and human interaction in the wild. By supporting these institutions, you can help create more protected ecosystems that cannot be infiltrated by industry. One of the leading causes of extinction is the loss of habitat due to deforestation and fragmentation, which leads to human encounters which in turn leads to hunting and poaching. These human/animal conflicts can be lessened through education and cooperation and finding ways to coexist in the same space.

Climate Change is a real, worldwide epidemic. Due to the widespread use of fossil fuels, our world climate is changing drastically. Humans must work to reduce these emissions and work towards sustainable, renewable, and natural sources of energy. There are countless options for alternative energy sources, but we as a human race must embrace, further, and insist that these sources are used.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email