Playing with the Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

The Himalayan Marmots come across as just the right species you may want to cuddle in bed to stay warm in the cold climes of Ladakh. But these mammals belonging to the squirrel family are swift to retreat into their burrows at the slightest hint of human approach. Even if their squat body and short stocky limbs suggest limited athletic prowess.

[Click on any of the images for a larger view]

I have come across Marmots beyond Khardungla Pass on the way to Nubra valley and on the way to Tso Moriri, only catching fleeting glimpses through my camera lens. However, one set of five decided some publicity may be good for them and put on a show for me. About fifteen miles from Pangong Tso on the way back to Leh.

All it needed were some bananas to win them over. It was a treat watching them peel and eat these, even fighting over the pieces. Food made them romantic as they smooched each other and huddled together, and friendly too with two of them trying their best to snuggle up my legs. Not sure if they could hurt made me look a bit apprehensive, until a passing local driver told me they were harmless. A guide told me later that this is the only known spot in Ladakh where the Marmots act friendly, only because they know passing travellers will feed them goodies. Adding variety to their diet comprising predominantly of grasses and herbs. Smart, very smart.

Marmots hibernate for 6-7 months starting early October, staying huddling together in their hay covered and tightly closed burrows. They do not store food, losing about half their eight kilo body weight during the period.

Marmots are not easy to find along new road projects though; according to a forest official, a certain race of migratory workers from the state of Orissa eat everything that moves including Marmots. Ladakhis, even if they did earlier, have struck Marmots off their menus.

Enjoy Marmots in their natural habitat, but don’t expect wildlife laws to allow you to take them home.

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

Himalayan Marmots in Ladakh

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I saw one Marmot in Ladakh while coming back to Leh from Khardungla…saw it from quite a distance and stopped my bike to get a pic…unfortunately didn’t know about the Banana Trick πŸ˜‰ otherwise would have used it…

    I am sure you would have had a great time with these snuggies !!!

    Now I know the Marmot-Taming secret…thanks to you !!!

    Cheers…
    Nishant

  2. Met several marmots in Zansker Valley, Tried to take a good pic several times. But.. not a single photo was close enough as yours. Why no one told me about this banana trick… : (

  3. I was fascinated with the marmots on my way to Padum. In fact, One day, we drove just 80 odd kms in 8 hrs just because we were trying to follow the marmots and few birds around…

    You really got some good pictures…

  4. Try out some slices of Bread . They will just go crazy. You could even hold them in your hand and chase them for the bread. But I heard, WWI people were not in favour of feeding this bunch of marmots. People throb in huge numbers to stop and click Photographs with them while they are feed them. They are not use to such extra haeavy diet. They fear their ill health during hibernating period.

  5. Marmots or any wild animal is not supposed to be introduced to food from outside.Hunting for food available in the region is an important behaviour of ‘wild’ animals that we must respect.

  6. Amazing creatures. Just got back from Leh and and the highlight of the trip was playing with the marmots. I knew I was doing wrong and wild creatures need to be a little afraid but they were surprisingly friendly towards me. So I forced my self not to stay long and take too many pictures. Though I got a snap of me scratching one of their bellies and others if I can send to you.

  7. I saw one Marmot in Ladakh while going to Nubra Valley ….saw it from quite a distance could take a snap. But were unaware of the name and facts about it. Now I know the Marmot :)

  8. I found a wonderful pic of a marmot eating a biscuit I gave him. Is there any way I can upload here… Its super cute

  9. Please do not feed Marmots, their population is dwindling as they are becoming more and more dependent on Humans for their food..the a change of food habit leads to their downfall

  10. We came across a group of Marmots merrily playing and eating to their hearts’ content by the side of a lovely spring, on our way to Nubra Valley from Leh. As we went nearer most of them started running and went inside the burrows. But one was smart enough and responded to our whistle and came near. Biscuits were offered and it ate those happily and allowed us to take photographs and touch it. It was an experience of a life time that I would never forget.

  11. I saw many on our way to Pangong lake..Our driver told us not to feed them since its usually harmful to them so dint take the risk..Just picking up a stone and dropping it beside you will make them get close to you since they think its food..Surprisingly they were very friendly..One by one they got out of the burrows seeing us..

  12. Would request all of you to please read an article I just did on feeding marmots in Ladakh, which has just been published in Sanctuary Asia. It is a deeply disturbing trend now amongst tourists on their way to Pangong Tso. Tourists are feeding marmots as well as going all over their habitat to take photographs.

    Ajay Jain, I have sent you an email with the article. I do hope you read it and respond as well as take this post off your blog, since it will only give ideas to more tourists.

  13. FEEDING IS NOT ALLOWED :) But ofcourse some people would do anything for a picture.

    it clearly mentions so, and there is a good reason behind it. cause in the extreme cold conditions when no tourist are around, they do not get these luxuries of bananas etc and then don’t eat the grass they are suppose too eat.. Marmots are firendly only in this region because of this.

    may be you didn’t know this. now you do.. and i hope all you people reading this don’t take the banana trick along with u next time.. go sit there for a while and they will anyway come close to you.. follow me on my instagram page to see my pics with these boys. FARAH PAVRI

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