The Changtang is a high altitude plateau in western and northern Tibet extending into southeastern Ladakh, with vast highlands and giant lakes. From eastern Ladakh Changtang stretches approximately 1600 km east into Tibet, as far as the province of Qinghai. It is the home of the Changpa nomads.
Most of Changtang Plateau is now protected nature reserves consisting of the Changtang Nature Reserve, the 2nd-largest nature reserve in the world. Since the reserves have been established, there has been a welcome increase in the numbers of endangered species. The protected areas stretch across parts of Tibet, Xinjiang and Qinghai.
The Changtang Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Ladakhi adjunct of the Changtang Plateau. The altitude of the sanctuary varies from 14,000 to 19,000 feet, and topography is formed of deep gorges and vast plateaus. There are around 11 lakes and 10 marshes in the Changtang Sanctuary, and the majestic River Indus dances through the sanctuary, dividing it into 2 parts.
With the constantly improving ecosystem in recent years, the Changtang National Nature Reserve has become a paradise for many wild animals, including wild yak, Tibetan antelope and Tibetan dzigettai. Nowadays there are more than 1000 species of wild life inhabiting the area.
The people of Changtang are nomadic pastoralisits, known as Changpa. As of 1989 there were half a million nomads living on Changtang Plateau. Unlike many other nomadic groups, the Changpa are not under pressure from settled farmers as the vast majority of land they inhabit is too inhospitable for farming.
The weather here is harsh and unpredictable. The summers are warm but short and thunder storms can occur at almost any time of year, often with hail. The winters are cold and Arctic-like, due to the high elevation.