Two years after getting the Union Territory (UT) status following bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ladakh administration has declared Snow Leopard as 'state animal' and Black-necked Crane as 'state bird'.

As per a notification issued by Dr. Pawan Kotwal, Principal Secretary Forest, Ecology and Environment, UT of Ladakh, "The Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Ladakh is pleased to declare "Snow Leopard" (Panthera uncia), and "Blacked-Necked Crane" (Grus nigricollis) as State Animal, and State Bird, respectively of the Union Territory of Ladakh from the date of issue of this notification."

DIPR Ladakh

Black-Necked Crane was state bird of erstwhile J&K State

Importantly, the "Black Necked Crane" was the state bird of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is found only in the mountainous region of Ladakh so the UT administration has notified it as a 'State Bird'

Classified as one of the 15 critically endangered species of birds in India, the "Black-Necked Crane" is a tall bird with a height of about 1.35 m, a wingspan of about 2-2.5m, and weighs about 6-8 kg with a bright red crown on the head. Usually seen in pairs, their courtship dance has inspired one of Ladakh's famous folk dances – Chartses.

Ladakhis believe that a sighting of the Black-Necked Crane portends good luck. For residents of Ladakh, the Black-Necked Crane is held in high regard. Its mating dance is an important part of every cultural program and festival, and many monasteries feature paintings of the crane alongside other spiritual art.

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Ladakh is home to over 50% of India's snow leopards

The mountainous region of the western and eastern Himalayas is the habitat of snow leopards in India. They are primarily found in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

According to official figures, there are about 7,500 snow leopards left in the world, 500 of which are in India. The high-altitude cold desert of Ladakh is home to about half of them.

In India, the geographical range of snow leopard encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.

It is pertinent to mention that Hangul was the state animal of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which was also comprised of Ladakh.

After the abrogation of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh have been divided into two UTs. This is the reason that both the UTs are now selecting their respective state animals and state birds.