Monday, July 17, 2023

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary UPSC

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area located in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It is also known as the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. It is named after the famous Kedarnath Temple, one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites in the country. The sanctuary is situated in the Garhwal Himalayas and covers an area of approximately 975 square kilometers.

Established in 1972, the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is known for its diverse flora and fauna, pristine landscapes, and rich biodiversity. The sanctuary is characterized by high mountains, snow-clad peaks, alpine meadows, dense forests, and glacial rivers. 

The sanctuary boasts a wide range of vegetation due to its varying altitude and climatic conditions. The lower regions of the sanctuary are covered with dense forests consisting of oak, pine, deodar, and rhododendron trees. As the altitude increases, these forests give way to alpine meadows, shrubs, and grasslands.

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is home to numerous species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Some of the notable wildlife species found here include the Himalayan black bear, snow leopard, musk deer (state animal of Uttarakhand), Himalayan tahr, langur, serow, bharal (blue sheep), Himalayan monal (state bird of Uttarakhand), pheasants, and various species of vultures.

Table of Contents

  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Location
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary History
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Area
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Mountains
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary River
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Lake
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Flora
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Fauna
    • Mammals
    • Birds
    • Reptile
  • Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary UPSC Questions

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Location

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) is located in the Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts of the state of Uttarakhand, India. It is one of the largest protected areas in the state. The sanctuary lies in the upper catchment of the Alaknanda and Mandakini Rivers.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Nearest Airport:

The nearest airport to the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is the Jolly Grant Airport, located in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. It is approximately 230 kilometers away from the sanctuary. From the airport, one can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the sanctuary.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Nearest Railway Station:

As for the nearest railway station, the Rishikesh Railway Station is the closest one to the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. It is approximately 207 kilometers away. From Rishikesh, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the sanctuary.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary History

The history of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is closely tied to the religious significance of the region and the conservation efforts in Uttarakhand.

Early Importance: The region around Kedarnath has long been considered sacred due to the presence of the Kedarnath Temple, which is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas (sacred abodes of Lord Shiva) in Hindu mythology. Pilgrims have been visiting the area for centuries, leading to the establishment of several pilgrimage routes and infrastructure.

Wildlife Conservation Initiatives: In the 20th century, awareness grew about the need to protect the rich biodiversity of the region. Efforts were made to preserve the unique flora and fauna in and around Kedarnath. 

Establishment: In 1972, the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary was officially established to provide legal protection and conservation measures for the area's wildlife.

Natural Disasters: The Kedarnath region has also witnessed significant natural disasters. In 2013, devastating floods and landslides caused widespread destruction in the area, including loss of life and damage to infrastructure. Efforts were subsequently undertaken to rebuild and restore the region's ecological balance.

Conservation and Ecotourism: Over the years, the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary has remained a focus of conservation efforts, with measures in place to protect the diverse wildlife and their habitats. The sanctuary also offers opportunities for responsible ecotourism, allowing visitors to appreciate the natural beauty while promoting conservation and sustainable practices.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Area

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary covers an approximate area of 975 square kilometers (376 sq mi). The area comes under West Himalayan zone in the Palearctic realm. The altitude ranges from 1,160 to 7,068 m asl.

This vast area includes diverse landscapes, such as high mountains, snow-clad peaks, alpine meadows, dense forests, and glacial rivers. The sanctuary's expansive size provides habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna, contributing to its rich biodiversity and ecological significance.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Mountains

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is bordered by several prominent peaks in the north. The mountains that border the sanctuary include:

(1) Kedarnath Peak:

Standing at an elevation of 6,940 meters (22,769 feet), Kedarnath Peak is one of the notable peaks that form the northern border of the sanctuary. It is a significant peak in the region and adds to the picturesque landscape.

(2) Mandani Peak:

With an altitude of 6,193 meters (20,314 feet), Mandani Peak is another prominent mountain that borders the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary to the north. It adds to the scenic beauty and ruggedness of the surrounding area.

(3) Chaukhamba Peaks:

The Chaukhamba mountain range includes several peaks, with Chaukhamba I being the highest at 7,068 meters (23,189 feet). These peaks also form part of the northern border of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, providing a stunning backdrop to the sanctuary's landscapes.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary River

Mandakini River is the primary river that flows through the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary in a north-south direction. It is a significant river that originates from the Chorabari Glacier near Kedarnath, which is a revered pilgrimage site in Uttarakhand.

The Mandakini River passes through the sanctuary, shaping the topography and creating a scenic river valley within its boundaries. As it flows southwards, it eventually merges with the Alaknanda River at Rudraprayag.

The Mandakini River is an important water source for the flora and fauna in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. It supports various aquatic life forms and provides a vital water supply for the sanctuary's ecosystem.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Lake

Vasuki Tal is a glacial lake located near the Kedarnath region in the Uttarakhand state of India. It is situated at an altitude of approximately 4,135 meters (13,566 feet) above sea level, amidst the majestic Himalayan peaks. The lake holds significant cultural and natural importance.

Vasuki Tal is surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas, with snow-clad peaks reflecting on its pristine waters. The lake is fed by the melting glaciers and snowfields of the Chorabari Glacier. It is believed to be associated with Hindu mythology, where it is considered to be the abode of Vasuki, the serpent king.

The trek to Vasuki Tal is a popular adventure activity for nature enthusiasts and trekkers. The trail offers magnificent views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, including the towering Chaukhamba peaks. Along the way, trekkers traverse through alpine meadows, dense forests, and rocky terrains.

Visiting Vasuki Tal requires a trek from Kedarnath, which is an important pilgrimage site and serves as the base for the journey. The trek is considered moderately challenging and requires physical fitness and acclimatization to the high altitude.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Flora

What is the flora of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary?

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is known for its diverse flora, which showcases a range of vegetation types due to varying altitudes and climatic conditions. The sanctuary encompasses forests, meadows, and shrublands. 

Here are some of the notable flora found in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary:

(1) Coniferous Forests:

The lower regions of the sanctuary are covered with coniferous forests, dominated by trees such as deodar (Cedrus deodara), pine (Pinus spp.), and fir (Abies spp.). These evergreen trees provide habitat to various bird species and small mammals.

(2) Oak Forests:

Oak (Quercus spp.) forests are common in the middle altitudes of the sanctuary. The predominant oak species include banj oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) and chir pine oak (Quercus semecarpifolia). These forests are important for soil conservation and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

(3) Rhododendron Forests:

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is renowned for its vibrant rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.) forests. These beautiful flowering trees create a stunning display of colors during the spring season.

(3) Alpine Meadows:

As the altitude increases, the forests give way to alpine meadows and grasslands. These meadows are carpeted with a variety of grasses, herbs, and wildflowers, including primroses, anemones, and gentians.

(4) Medicinal Plants:

The sanctuary is home to a rich assortment of medicinal plants, some of which are highly valued in traditional medicine practices. Species like Aconitum heterophyllum (Atis), Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutki), and Swertia chirayita (Chirayita) are among the medicinal plants found in the sanctuary.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Fauna (Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Animals)

The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses a varied landscape that provides a multitude of habitats for wildlife. As a result, the sanctuary is rich in faunal diversity, with over 30 species of mammals, 240 species of birds, 147 species of butterflies, nine species of snakes, and 10 species of fishes recorded within its boundaries. 


  • Snow Leopard 
  • Indian Leopard
  • Leopard Cat
  • Indian Jackal
  • Red Fox
  • Himalayan Black Bear
  • Yellow-throated Marten
  • Indian Boar
  • Himalayan Musk Deer
  • Indian Muntjac (Barking Deer)
  • Rhesus Macaque
  • Common Langur
  • Hodgson's Brown-toothed Shrew
  • Red Giant Flying Squirrel
  • Royle's Pika

The presence of endangered species, such as the Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster), further enhances the conservation significance of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary.


Which birds are found in Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary?

The avian fauna of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is diverse and offers a haven for numerous bird species. Here are some notable bird species found within the sanctuary:

  • Himalayan Monal
  • Snow Partridge
  • Kalij Pheasant
  • Koklass Pheasant
  • West Himalayan Bush Warbler
  • Little Pied Flycatcher
  • Grey-cheeked Warbler
  • Rusty-flanked Treecreeper


  • Himalayan Pit Viper
  • Boulenger's keelback

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary UPSC Questions

Q. Where is Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary situated/located?

A. The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts of Uttarakhand, India 

Q. What is Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary famous for?

A. The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is famous for several reasons, including:

(i) Spiritual Significance: The sanctuary is located in the vicinity of the revered Kedarnath Temple, one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites dedicated to Lord Shiva. Pilgrims visit the temple and often explore the sanctuary as part of their spiritual journey.

(ii) Biodiversity Hotspot: The sanctuary is renowned for its rich biodiversity, encompassing a wide range of flora and fauna. It is home to over 1100 recorded plant species, including several endemic and medicinal plants. The sanctuary also harbors diverse mammal, bird, and reptile species, including the endangered Himalayan musk deer and snow leopard.

(iii) Scenic Landscapes: The sanctuary is nestled in the Garhwal Himalayas, offering breathtaking natural landscapes. It is surrounded by majestic mountains, including the Kedarnath, Mandani, and Chaukhamba peaks, adding to its scenic beauty.

(iv) Trekking and Adventure Opportunities: The sanctuary provides opportunities for trekking enthusiasts to explore the pristine wilderness and enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas. Trekking routes such as the Kedarnath Trek and Vasuki Tal Trek pass through the sanctuary, offering stunning views and a chance to experience the region's natural wonders.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary

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