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Flora & Fauna
Wildlife - Among other species, the area is home to the Siberian Ibex (Capra ibex sibirica), the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Pika (Ochotana roylei), Himalayan Wolf (canis lupus laniger) and Weasels (Mustela spp). The avifauna of the region includes the Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Himalayan Griffon (Gyps himalayensis), Golden eagle (Aquia chryaetos), Chukar partridge (Alectronics Chukor), Himalayan Snow Cock (Tetraogallus himalayensis) and a host of Rosefinches (Corpodacus spp).
Parks & Sanctuaries

Pin Valley National Park

The valley of the Pin river is a protected National Park. The park encompasses an area of 675 sq kms and a buffer zone of 1150 sq kms. The Bara Shigri glacier forms part of the northern boundary of the park, which continues along the Hundungma ridge separating the main Spiti valley and Pin valley watersheds. The eastern boundary runs along the Killung nalla to join the Pin river near Larang La. The buffer zone (which is mostly on the eastern side) extends northwards upto the Spiti river and eastwards upto where the Tipta nalla meets the Spiti River. The minimum altitude is 3600m and the maximum altitude is 6632m.

The area is home to the Siberian Ibex (Capra ibex sibirica), the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Pika (Ochotana roylei) and Weasels (Mustela spp). The avifauna of the region includes the Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Himalayan Griffon (Gyps himalayensis), Golden eagle (Aquia chryaetos), Chukar partridge (Alectronics Chukor), Himalayan Snow Cock ( Tetraogallus himalayensis) and a host of Rosefinches (Corpodacus spp).

The Ibex, Capra ibex sibirica, is well adapted to the extreme environment, making it a fascinating study. A thick winter coat helps protect it against the intense cold whereas the summer coat is a thinner dark brown. Ibex goats spend most of the winter on steep cliffs that are highly prone to avalanches.

Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary

The Kibber Wildlife sanctuary is located on the left bank of the Spiti river and is linked with road via Lhalung, Langza & Kibber village. It is spread over an area of about 1400 sq km and is segregated in an outer buffer zone and an inner "protected area". It is the only sanctuary in the country which is situated in a cold desert area.

There are about 13 villages situated outside the periphery of the sanctuary. Only two households in one village Kibber exist inside the sanctuary area. There are three monasteries - Kye, Tangyud and Dhankar on the periphery of the protected area. The buffer zone does contain a few dwellings called "dogris" and a grazing reserve for livestock.

Conditions are generally cold and dry since it is a high altitude desert. For a dry land, the flora that is found is quite amazing. Plants and flowers are mainly used for livestock feed, traditional medicinal value and cosmetics.

Being a high altitude sanctuary, KWS is home to a variety of rare animals like the Ibex, blue sheep, red fox, Tibetan woolly hare, Himalayan Wolf (canis lupus laniger), lynx, pika, Tibetan wild ass - and the majestic but elusive snow leopard. A sighting of the snow leopard is very rare partly due to its elusive nature and part due to its dwindling number. But signs of its presence - killed prey, pug marks, scat and spray - are omnipresent.

The birds that are found here include the Himalayan snow cock, the Himalayan billed chough, the bearded eagle and griffons. The sanctuary also offers a great view of the region's peaks - Chau-cahu Khanamo & Chau-chau Khang Nilda.

Flora - The Tibetan Plateau region is estimated to contain 10,000 species of plants, of which more than 10% are plants with medicinal qualities. A few of these plants are also found in the Western Himalayan region and form an important part of the Tibetan traditional healing systems.

Despite being a high altitude cold desert, Spiti boasts of more than 450 species of medicinal & aromatic plants. These include Seabuckthorn, Hatagirea, Aconitum, Ratanjot (Khamad), Ephedra, Artemisia and other condiments.

The alpine pastures on the high plateaus are home to a variety of small bushes and grasses including the Rosa sericea, Hipopheae and Lonicera among others.

Traditional Agriculture - Agriculture in Spiti shares a delicate balance with the geo-climatic conditions of this cold desert region. Agriculture is limited to one crop a year and is solely dependent on the winter snow melt.

Agriculture forms one of the most important parts of the socio-economic life of the local community. Traditional crops largely grown are barley and a local variety of pea (kala matar or black pea). These are well-suited to the region's peculiar geo-climatic conditions since they require minimum irrigation and are fairly drought resistant and hardy. Moreover, they are well known for their high nutritional content and capability for increasing soil-fertility.

Water for irrigation comes almost totally from glacier melt transported over long distances through small channels, locally known as kuhls.

Traditional Medicine Systems - The amchi medical practice is also identified by the name sowa rigpa , which means "science of healing" in classical Tibetan as well as in regional Himalayan and Central Asian languages and dialects.

The word amchi means "doctor." This system of medicine is a spiritual practice, a science, and an art that dates back thousands of years. Aspects of this medicine system were transmitted from India to Tibet between the 7th and 12th centuries, during the first and second dissemination of Buddhism.

This system combines the profound work of Sangye Menla, the Medicine Buddha, with indigenous Tibetan traditions such as Bön, and was shaped into sowa rigpa as it is known today.

After learning how to read and write classical Tibetan and studying relevant religious texts, students would learn their vocation by apprenticing an elder amchi and studying the r Gyud Bzi , or the Four Root Tantra texts of Tibetan medicine.

A young amchi would also learn how to identify and collect medicinal plants, make medicine, remove poisonous qualities of certain ingredients, diagnose disease using pulse and urine analysis, and provide prescriptions for patients. The medicine may consist of a single herb or many. For example, a medicine called Agar 35 ( Agar sonya ) contains 35 different kinds of herbs.