Due to the incredible altitude of Mount Everest (Mount Sagarmatha)—the highest point on Earth, at 29,029 feet—some may be surprised to learn that it hosts amazing animal diversity. Though few living things can survive on the mountain’s oxygen-deprived peak, many species thrive at lower altitudes. Several of the species found on Mount Everest are incredibly rare, and have a range limited only to the Himalayan range of Nepal where Everest is located.
Snow leopards are native to the mountains of Central Asia, including Mount Everest. These large cats are endangered and incredibly rare in the wild, with only approximately 6,000 remaining. Snow leopards are specially adapted to their cold high-altitude environment, sporting thick insulating fur and wide feet for sure-footedness even on snowy rock walls. Snow leopards prey on the ibex and sheep that also make Everest their home.
Himalayan Black Bear
Himalayan or Asiatic black bears can be found in forested areas of Mount Everest, all the way up to an elevation of about 14,000 feet. These bears, recognizable by their shaggy black coats and the distinctive white blaze on their chests, survive the harsh winters of Everest by hibernating during the coldest months. During the warmer months, Himalayan black bears survive on a diet of leaves, shoots, seeds, insects, nuts, fruits and occasionally meat.
The Himalayan tahr is a small goat-like mammal that can be found at elevations of over 16,000 feet in the alpine and subalpine regions of the Himalayans. Tahrs of both sexes have curved horns, and all have specially adapted hooves and dewclaws that allow them to climb with ease. Tahrs prefer wooded slopes, bluffs and alpine meadows. Himalayan tahrs are considered to be "near threatened" in the wild, and have had to be reintroduced into parts of their habitat.
Himalayan gorals are small members of the bovid family that can be found throughout the Himalayas, and prefer to remain below the timberline of their mountainous habitat. Gorals are generally social animals, living in groups of between four and 12 individuals, though some can live in pairs or singly. These animals prefer rugged terrain, and can typically be found on precarious slopes or grassy ridges. When threatened, this species will hide in rock crevices.
Red pandas, also referred to as lesser pandas or red cat-bears, are a rare sight even in highly visited areas of Mount Everest. These raccoon-like animals can be found at lower elevations in bamboo thickets of Sagarmatha National Park. Because the population of red pandas is thought to be less than 10,000, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species considers them to be a “vulnerable” species.
- United Nations World Heritage Convention: Sagarmatha National Park
- National Geographic: Snow Leopard
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ailurus fulgens
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ursus thibetanus
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Himalayan Tahr
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Naemorhedus Goral
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images