ENVIS Center Sikkim under Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Govt of Sikkim


Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is located in the district of North South and West of the Sikkim State. It’s boundaries lie between latitude 270 15’ North and longitude 88002 and 880 40’ East and encompasses a total area of 2655.26 km. It has two crores zones with total area of 1819.34 Km2 and four buffer zones covering on area of 835.92 km2. The Biosphere Reserve is in the altitude ranging form 1220 to over 8550 m amsl. To the North, It is the boundary of Khangchendzonga (high altitude) National Park and Lungnak La (5537 m) ridge; to the East, it is bounded by Tista River,  to the South , the boundary runs all along the boundary of various reserved forests of the South and West Forest Division of the State and to the West, it is bounded by the Singalila Range which forms the international boundary between the Indian state of Sikkim and Nepal. It also touches a short streak of international boundary with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China in the North-West corner of the State. Salient features of the Biosphere Reserve which are more or less in agreement with the international criterion of such Reserve can be summarized as follows: (i) it contains unique geomorphic features with some of the lofty picturesque and beautiful peaks of heights ranging from 5825 m  to over 8550 m asl., glaciers, high altitude lakes and is endowed with one of the world’s highest ecosystems, (ii) it covers varying eco-clines from sub-tropical to arctic areas (1220-8550m) and several major North-South and west South trans-boundary watersheds, (iii) it is of a high religious  significance. Mountains, Lakes, rocks and caves are sacred to the local people and are worshipped by them. The physiographic distribution of KBR is given in Table 1.



Due to altitudinal variations, the climate in different parts of the Biosphere Reserve varies according to location, change in altitude and  aspect. It is burning summer at the foot-hills and freezing chills in winter on high mountains. During the spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) The weather is particularly pleasant. Since the State is the most humid region in the whole range of Himalayas the Biosphere also experiences a wide range of humidity which may be from 70% in the month of December to 92% in July, the annual means being around 82%.



             The Khanchendzong Biosphre Reserve includes only the Government Reserved Forests, forest set aside for grazing (Goucharan) and for the purpose of public utility (Khasmal), thus the boundary of the Biosphere Reserve runs all along the Reserved Forest boundary in places where villages are contiguous to the forests. It does not include any other village settlement except two small eco-villages. One is of  Tibetan community (Tribal) village comprising of ten houses now with a population of about 90 in an  allotted area of 13 acres in a place called Tsoka which was already in the Khangchendzonga (High Altitude) National Park as part of the ecosystem. The other small village is of retired armies of Nepalese community (Gurung) settled in an area of 10 acres of land. Each family unit was allotted 2 acres of forest lands in the Pathing Reserved Forests. Army Camp or Puchar Kharka as the name of that village under Yangang Block, south Sikkim now known to all had 5 families when settled in 1986, has increased to 9 houses with a population of about 29 heads as of this date.

            The Reserve is surrounded by rural villages. The population consists of Lepchas (early settlers), Bhotiyas and Nepalese. Nepalese are represented by Brahmin, Chettri, Newar, Tamang, Gurung, Rai, Sherpa, Limbu, Mangar, Bhujel, Kami, Damai, and Sharki. All households, the average family size of which is 5-6 persons per household, directly or indirectly depend upon agriculture for their livelihood. The households depending upon business activities, service sector and employment outside agriculture are very few. About 75% of households are considered to be poor and each household possesses Vikash Patrika for less than 5 acres of land. Many of the village settlements are remotely located where education and health services are not adequately available. The rura; economy is mostly a mixed economy is mostly a mixed economy of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry.


Flora, Fauna and Vegetation Types

            In the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve the floristic wealth is rich and diverse, both in composition and value. The forests represent diverse pland communities which include diverse vegetational types corresponding to variation of climatic and edaphic factors. The following vegetation types may be demarcated in the Biosphere Reserve based on Champion and Seth (1986). They are: Sub;tropical broad-leaved hill forest, Himalayan wet temperate forests, Temperate broad-leaved hill forest, Himalayan wet temperate forests, Temperate broad-leaved forests, Mixed coniferous  forests, Sub- alpine forests, Moist Alpine Forests, and Dry Alpine Forests.


Table 1. Area (in Km2) Statistics of Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve


Class                North                           West                            South               Grand total


            Normal       Steep         Normal        Steep        Normal       Steep

Mixed Dense

Forest         98.15     6.36          329.31          0.58        54.41           1.42           478.24

Mixed open

Forest         93.99    10.86         45.07            1.05        29.08           0.78           180.84


Degraded 100.45     9.25          38.23              0.39        23.34           0.66           172.32

Dense Conifer

Forest          41.71  13.41          53.15             2.74       23.69            1.10            135.81

Open Conifer

Forest       99.46      6.10           94.50             9.38       16.11             2.57            228.12

Degraded Conifer

Forest          76.58    14.03        38.60             2.89         7.54              1.19            140.83

Oak            29.79      5.75        20.38             0.61         5.51               0.77              62.81



Scrubs        17.75       4.56         3.20              0.16         2.47               0.44              28.59





Blanks           23.42       4.86        31.41             0.00        34.18              0.40              84.28



 Scrubs       129.41       44.04       51.58             8.43          4.47               6.86            244.79




Barren        85.75        30.34       72.34            19.31          5.16              5.88             216.78

Snow     277.01      100.00       68.37            25.73          5.99              3.82             480.93

Glacier   122.87        29.81         0.00             0.00           0.00                0.00             152.68

Lakes          1.86          0.00         2.34            0.08           0.00                0.00                 4.28



Dry River

Bed               6.29           1.69         0.00            0.00            0.00              0.00                 7.98  

Total   1223 .84       284.69     849.95          71.45         199.41           25.92           2655.76




            The selected Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is a vast area and is a representative of the overall biotype of the region. As it is rich in floral wealth, the faunal wealth is also equally rich in contents. High altitude alpine and plateau regions and foot hills are conductive to the growth of faunal wealth and provide safe refuge. The area is mountainous and has difficult terrains and this coupled with limited manpower and financial constraints no systematic survey and census of animals have been undertaken so far. Yet status surveys, usually 5-6 trips a year to gather baseline data on various species of wildlife have been undertaken by the field staff. Some informations are based on the reports given by mountaineers, trekkers and other visitors in the reserve. The important faunal species reported from the Biosphere Reserve have been found distributed in the following way.


Table 2. Distribution of species in various categories

 Mammals                                               Number of species


Alpine Zone and Tibetan Plateau                       12

Timber line                                                         4

Temperate Zone                                               15

Sub-tropical zone                                             15


Water fowls in the high altitude lake                   16

High altitude grassland birds                  16

Forest birds in the treeline, Temperate Zone   14

And sub-tropical zone





Table 3. Threatened flora of the reserve

Aconitum spp               P. tibetacum  (Orchid)                          Rubia Manjith

Rhododendron spp       P.himalaicum (Orchid                            Lancea tibetica

Meconopsis spp           Cordycceps sinensis (Insectplant)       Onosma hookeri

Costus speciosa            Heracleum wallichii                               Aristolochia spp

Taxus baccata              Piororhiza Kurrooa                               Dioscorea deltoidea

Swertia Chirata Orchis latifolia                           Lilium polyphyllum

Gynocardia odorata      Panax pesudo-ginseng                          Calenthea whitana (Orchid)


Vanustum Orchid          Trichosanthes palmate               Nordostachys jatamasi




            The administration of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve will be a most challenging task. Local support and involvement of people of the Biosphere and other machineries working in the areas are essential to come together and bring about an integrated eco-development. With Forest, Department like Rural Development. Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Health Services and Finance should be involved in the development of this area. At the same time, efforts should also be made to promote welfare of the people of the peripheral areas without destroying the natural resource base.

            People living in far flung areas close to the Biosphere Reserve are often  devoid of the benefits of modern infrastructure. The economy is based on marginal agriculture, forestry and small herd of domesticated animals. Thus, they have remained predominantly dependent on the bounties of nature for their livelihood. In the present state, economic pressures in the remotest rural areas are heavy and to make both ends meet is a matter of great concern for them. In the primitive period, hunting and fishing have been the way of life of the people. But they knew judicious use of natural resources while at present greed and avarice of so-called modern people have destroyed many of the valuable resources. Keeping socio-economic factors and age old rights of local people in view, the Biosphere Reserve programme particularly the people-oriented schemes will be launched to provide alternative means of employment.


Table 4. Threatened fauna of the reserve


Common Name                                                          Scientific Name




            Jungle cat                                                                     Felis chaus

            Leopard cat                                                                  Felis bengalensis

            Panther or leopard                                                        Panthera pardus

            Snow leopard                                                               Uncia uncia

            Musk deer                                                                    Moschus chrysogaster

            Himalayan thar                                                  Hemitragus jemlahicus

            Tibetan wolf                                                                 Canis lupus

            Clouded leopard                                                           Neofelis nebulosa

            Serow                                                                          Capricornis sumatraensis

            Red panda                                                                    Alurus fulgens

            Nayan                                                                          Ovis ammon hodgsomi



            Himalayan golden eagle                                     Aquila chrysaetos daphanea

            Himalayan bearded-vulture                                           Gypaetus barbatus

            Satyr tragopan                                                              Tragopan satyra

            Himalayan monal pheasant                                            Lophophorus impajanus

            Tibetan snow cock                                                       Tetraogallus tibetanus

            Tibetan horned or eagle-owl                                         Bubo bubo tibetanus

            Forest eagle-owl                                                           Bubo nepalensis

            Black eagle                                                                   Ictinactus malayensis





            Research, monitoring and training programmes are essential components of the functions of the Biosphere Reserve and the Field Director will responsible for these programmes. Since the successful management depends on the personnel involved, They should be trained in the related fields of the Biosphere Reserve. For the research and monitoring programmes, the Biosphere Reserve must have scientific staff of ecologists and biologists to collect and collate research information on the natural bio-diversity of the area.


  • To help develop an integrated plan for the management of the manipulation zones – Forestry, Tourism, Administrative, etc.,
  • To develop a programme for the restoration of biological diversity,
  • To develop a rural development programme aimed at the preservation of natural resources, and
  • To help coordinate the protection of core zones.


Suggested Options


The success of the Biosphere Reserve programme will depend upon the popular local support and proper coordination in the activities of various developmental agencies. The different arms of administration, research institutions (BSI,ZSI,GSI, GBPIHED, ICAR) and developmental agencies will be brought together and this calls for formation of the following coordinating bodies :


  • Government Council : highest decision-making body directly concerned with the Biosphere Reserve.
  • Eco-development Council: district level unit of management of the Biosphere

Reserve for generating participation of the people of the region in the Biosphere Programme.

  • Research and Monitoring Committee : for research and monitoring programme in the Biosphere Reserve.

The above bodies shall meet once in a year and review the programmes and works done.




            The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, for the purpose of management, will be divided into the following zones.


Core Zone

            Khangchendzonga (High Altitude) National Park covering an area of 1784 km2 and situated in the North and West districts of the state will form as Core Zone I of the Biosphere Reserve. Similarly, Matenam Wildlife Sanctuary situated in South Sikkim and covering an area of 35.54 km2 will form as Core Zone II. These two wildlife reserves notified already and protected under the Act represent natural and minimally disturbed ecosystems. Core areas are sanctum sanctorum of the Biosphere but certain areas in these Core Zones were already made open for trekking and mountaineering purposes. Except a small village of Tibetan communities settled since 1959 in a place called Tsoka which consists of 10 houses now with a population of 90, there is no other village settlement inside the National Park (Core Zone I).


            The Core areas will be managed with the objectives of (a) In-situ conservation of natural ecosystems, (b) Base line ecological monitoring. In the above context, the proposal may include strengthening of the protection measures, fire protection measures establishment of a network of monitoring station, preparation of inventory of flora and fauna and education to the people in the Biosphere.


Manipulation (Forestry)Zone


            This zone will spread over the buffer areas for the purpose of managing on a  sustained yield basis giving high priority to meet the needs of local people. The villagers have the traditional rights of getting tress marked for felling for bonified use, a practice which has sometimes resulted in over felling. These are not granted from reserved forests but fallen, dead or top dead trees are allotted to the needy local people after verifying in the field. Selection felling is the systems which is implemented in the Khas Forests where a Public Coupe(PC) of matured crops is identified for the purpose of meeting needs of the local people for timber. Unmatured trees are not allotted for felling. Selection felling is completed before the planting season and it is closed from  April to September every year during which afforestation works become active. Scuh Khas and Goucharan (grazing land) lands will be identified and included in this zone.



Manipulation (Tourism) Zone


            Areas which are of tourist, trekking and mountaineering interests will be identified and developed for recreational and educational purpose. Areas ideal for tourism, wildlife education and training are Yoksom, Dzongri, Khangerteng, Chaurikhang, Lam Pokhari in the southern area and Zakchem, Yabik, Green Lake and Lhonak valley in the nothern area of the Biosphere.


Restoration Zone

            There are vast areas of degraded coniferous forests due to lopping, timber cutting and grazing in the Lachen- Thangu valley in North Sikkim where restoration with local species of coniferous will be taken up. Similarly, such degraded areas identified in the Yuksom-Bakhim belt, Sopakha, Ralang, etc. in the southern area of the Biosphere will also be included in this zone. Considering the objectives of the Biosphere Reserve:


  • To conserve the diversity and integrity of plants and animal within natural eco-systems;
  • To safeguard the genetic diversity of the species on which their continuing evolution depends;
  • To provide area for ecological and environment research, and
  • To provide facility for education and training.


The management strategies may necessarily include protection as first priority as

far as biosphere reserve is concerned, provision of wireless communication systems anti-poaching squads with arms and ammunition, protection of area from fire, inventory of flora and fauna, vegetation map and coordination in research and monitoring works.


Research and Monitoring


            The research programme will cover a wide range of subjects essential for the understanding of the functioning of the ecosystem. Broadly, this can be classified into

(i) Long-term monitoring studies and (ii) Need-based research projects. The suggested long-term projects in the Biosphere Reserve are:


  • Collection of meteorological data
  • Hydrological data
  • Vegetation mapping
  • Monitoring of faunal population
  • Geological mapping including soil types


Other long-term studies may include anthropological studies of ethnic groups living around the Biosphere Reserve, uses of local species of trees, shrubs and herbs.