Animal Life

Animal life in harsh terrain

High mountains are a bleak habitat for animal life. Food is scarce and the climate is very cold. Ironically, because the terrain is so inhospitable, animals here have been relatively protected from human interference.
Mammals have adapted to survive the bitter cold and most have thick woolly fur. Mountain sheep and goats like the chamois and ibex are very sure-footed to help them climb the jagged, craggy slopes.

Life is particularly tough for large predators. Apart from the cold, their prey are scarce and quick-footed. The rare snow leopard lives above the snowline in the mountains of central Asia, preying on ibex and tahr.

How do birds survive?
The winds that sweep around mountains make flight hazardous, but mountains are home to some magnificent birds of prey. Golden eagles are the masters of the mountain peaks and valleys, soaring on outstretched wings as they search for small mammals like pikas and marmots to eat.

Other aerial experts are scavengers: the Andean condor is a type of vulture that rides the mountain air currents looking for carrion. Another vulture, the bearded vulture or lammergeier of Africa and Eurasia, likes to eat the fatty bone marrow of dead animals. It carries the bones high up into the air and drops them to smash open on the rocks below.

Many smaller species of birds are found high up in the mountains. In the Alps, they include Alpine swifts, Alpine choughs and snow finches.
Mountain Puma. / ©: WWF
Mountain Puma.
© WWF
Mountain butterflies are often darker-coloured than thier lowland counterparts. rel=
Mountain butterflies are often darker-coloured than their lowland counterparts.
© WWF

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