About Khangchendzonga landscape

Khangchendzonga landscape is nestled in the Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot. A wide variety of endemic and threatened species thrive here because of the variations in elevation, climate, vegetation and habitat type.
© Dipankar Ghose/WWF-India

Habitat and distribution

WWF India’s Khangchendzonga Landscape lies at the heart of the Eastern Himalayas. It includes the state of Sikkim as well as northern West Bengal. The area lies in the shadow of the towering 8,586-metre Khangchendzonga peak – the third highest mountain in the world ‘Khangchendzonga’.  According to the local Lhopo belief, Khangchendzonga means five treasures that are hidden within the peak but reveal themselves to the devout when the world is in peril; the treasures comprise of salt, gold, turquoise and precious stones, sacred scriptures, invincible armor or ammunition, grain and medicine. (Ref: Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions) 

This landscape is nestled in the Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspot. A wide variety of endemic and threatened species thrive here because of the variations in elevation, climate and habitat type. It is listed among the world’s ten most critical centres for biodiversity and endemism, with a vast array of floral and faunal species. Over 220 water bodies are found in Sikkim, fed mostly with glacial melt water, which also are the main sources for rivers in the state.

The northern part of this landscape is comprised of the mountainous state of Sikkim, which has about 82 per cent of its geographical area under forest jurisdiction. Darjeeling and Kalimpong district and parts of Jalpaiguri in northern West Bengal constitute the southern part of this landscape. The total area of this landscape is less than 10,000 km2. Due to a wide range of altitudes here, between 150 metres and 8500 metres, this landscape boasts of a great variety of plants that range from tropical and temperate to alpine and tundra. This is one of the few regions in the world to exhibit such diversity in a small area. A great variety of wild animals found in this area include the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, clouded leopard and gaur in the lowland areas and the red panda – Sikkim’s state animal, Asiatic black bear, goral, serow, snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan argali, and musk deer are found in the higher reaches. Sikkim is also renowned for orchids. It is home to an impressive 695 species of butterflies of the 1438 butterfly species found in India.

However, many parts of this beautiful landscape are under pressure from developmental projects,  unregulated tourism, and waste. These have led to loss  and degradation of habitat for wildlife and at times have triggered more drastic manifestations of climate change. Communities too are affected by these changes which affect their well being and livelihood. WWF-India seeks to maintain the biodiversity values and cultural integrity of the landscape and is working in both Sikkim and northern West Bengal. To facilitate this, a conservation alliance has been put in place with various NGOs and government agencies working for biodiversity conservation in the region. As a strong partner of the Zero Waste Himalaya platform, WWF- India takes lead to campaign and advocate for sustainable waste management in the region.
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