The term Himalayan wolf (referred to by the provisional name "Canis himalayensis") has been suggested by several Indian biologists for recognition as a critically endangered canid species, distinct from Canis lupus. In its morphological features, social and reproductive behavior, the Himalayan wolf resembles the Tibetan wolf, Canis lupus chanco.
However, the IUCN Wolf Specialist Group has not taken a position regarding this issue. The editors of Mammal Species of the World consider the small population to be Tibetan wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf.
The Himalayan wolf may represent an ancient isolated line of wolves consisting of a small population of about 350 animals. They inhabit an area of 70,000 km2 (27,000 sq mi) in the trans-Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in northern India, and are adapted to the cold environment.
Until recently, all wolves and dogs were believed to be part of the wolf-dog clade, meaning all domesticated dogs are derived from wolves. When the Himalayan lineage was studied, it became apparent these wolves shared no genetic markers with dogs. This indicates the Himalayan wolf played no role in the domestication of dogs. When the divergence of the Himalayan wolf occurred 800,000 years ago, the Himalayan region was going through major geologic and climatic upheaval.
The future of the Himalayan wolf is uncertain. The systematics of wolves from the Indian subcontinent remains controversial and needs further study.
In 2000-2001, four of the Zoological Parks of India kept 21 individuals. Eighteen Himalayan wolves are being bred in captivity. They were captured in the wild and are now being preserved in the trans-Himalayan region of India, at the Darjeeling Zoo in Shiwalik Hills on the lower range of the Himalaya in West Bengal, and in the Kufri Zoo with Kufri Himalayan National Park located in Himachal Pradesh province.
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