Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

Khangchendzonga (Kanchenjunga) Biosphere Reserve UPSC

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is a protected area located in the eastern Himalayas of the Indian states of Sikkim. It was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2018 and is named after Mount Khangchendzonga, the third-highest mountain in the world and a significant cultural and ecological symbol for the local communities.

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its rich biodiversity. It encompasses a wide range of ecosystems, including alpine meadows, temperate forests, and sub-tropical forests. The reserve is home to numerous plant and animal species, including several rare and endangered species like the snow leopard, red panda, musk deer, and Himalayan black bear.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1,220 to 8,586 metres above sea level. It includes a range of ecolines , varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes, that support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats. The site is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots

Table of Contents

  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Location
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve History
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Area
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Hills
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve River
    • Teesta River
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Lake and Glaciers
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Tribe
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Flora
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Fauna
    • Mammals
    • Birds
    • Reptile
  • Top Things to do in Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve
  • Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve UPSC Questions

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Location

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is located in the North and West Sikkim districts of Sikkim, India. It is situated in eastern Himalayas. The  Bbiosphere reserve bordering Nepal to the west and Tibet (China) to the north-west, 

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Nearest Airport:

The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport (IXB), located in the state of West Bengal, India. Bagdogra Airport is approximately 150 kilometers away from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. From Bagdogra, you can travel to Gangtok and then further to the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Nearest Railway Station:

Regarding the nearest railway station, Sikkim does not have a railway station within its borders. The nearest major railway station is New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) in Siliguri, West Bengal, India. It is approximately 125 kilometers away from Gangtok. From New Jalpaiguri, you can take a taxi or bus to reach Gangtok and then proceed to the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve History

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve has a rich history that involves both natural and cultural aspects. Here are some key points regarding the history of the biosphere reserve:

Cultural Heritage: The region encompassed by the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve has a long-standing cultural history. It is inhabited by indigenous communities, including the Lepcha, Bhutia, and Limbu tribes, who have been living in the area for centuries. These communities have deep connections with the land, nature, and mountains, and their traditional knowledge and practices have contributed to the cultural heritage of the region.

Mount Khangchendzonga: Mount Khangchendzonga, the third-highest peak in the world, holds significant cultural and religious importance for the local communities. It is considered sacred by the people of Sikkim, Nepal, and Tibet, and is believed to be the dwelling place of the mountain deity. The reverence towards Khangchendzonga has played a role in shaping the conservation efforts in the region.

Sikkim Kingdom: The area of present-day Sikkim, which forms a significant part of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, was once an independent kingdom. It was ruled by the Chogyal monarchy for several centuries before it merged with India in 1975.

National Park Status: The Khangchendzonga region was initially declared a national park in 1977 in India. 

Biosphere Reserve: In 2000, it was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by government of India. The reserve status aims to conserve the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of the area while also considering the cultural and traditional practices of the local communities.

Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve UNESCO

UNESCO Recognition: The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve's significance was internationally recognized when it was included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2018. This recognition highlights the importance of the region's biodiversity and the efforts undertaken to preserve it.

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve has become the 11th Biosphere Reserve from India that has been included in the UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). 

The decision to include Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve in World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) was taken at the 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held at Palembang, Indonesia, from July 23-27, 2018. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site: In 2016, Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the ‘mixed’ category (Mixed heritage sites contain elements of both natural and cultural significance).

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Area

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve covers an approximate area of 2931.12 square kilometers (km²). This area includes the core area, buffer zone, and transition zone combined. The Khangchendzonga National Park is the core zone of Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve.

  • Core area(s): 1784 km²
  • Buffer zone(s): 835.92 km²
  • Transition zone(s): 311.20 km²
  • Total: 2931.12 km²

Core Area(s): The core area of the biosphere reserve is the most strictly protected zone. It covers an area of 1784 square kilometers (km²). This area is designated for the preservation and conservation of the most sensitive and valuable ecosystems, as well as the rare and endangered species that inhabit them. Human activities in the core area are highly regulated to minimize disturbance to the natural environment.

Buffer Zone(s): The buffer zone is an area surrounding the core area and acts as a protective barrier. It covers an area of 835.92 km². The buffer zone allows for limited human activity and serves as a transition area between the core area and the surrounding human settlements. The regulations in the buffer zone are less strict compared to the core area, but still aim to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable land use practices.

Transition Zone(s): The transition zone is the outermost zone of the biosphere reserve, covering an area of 311.20 km². It is characterized by a mix of human settlements, agricultural lands, and natural landscapes. In this zone, sustainable development practices are encouraged, and efforts are made to promote the coexistence of human communities and the conservation of biodiversity.

In total, when you add up the areas of the core, buffer, and transition zones, the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve covers an area of 2931.12 km².

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Hills

Mount Khangchendzonga, also known as Kangchenjunga, is situated within the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. It is the world's third-highest peak, with an elevation of 8,586 meters (28,169 feet).

Mount Khangchendzonga is a majestic and iconic mountain in the eastern Himalayas, straddling the border between India's Sikkim state and Nepal. Its name translates to "Five Treasures of Snows," referring to its five prominent peaks. The mountain holds immense cultural and spiritual significance for the local communities, including the indigenous Lepcha and Bhutia tribes.

The presence of Mount Khangchendzonga adds to the natural beauty and allure of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. The surrounding area, including the slopes and valleys near the mountain, is home to diverse flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species. The reserve serves as a sanctuary for various alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems, making it a crucial conservation area for the mountain's biodiversity.

Mount Khangchendzonga is a popular destination for mountaineers and adventurers, attracting climbers from around the world. However, reaching the summit of this formidable peak requires significant mountaineering skills and experience.

The inclusion of Mount Khangchendzonga within the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve further emphasizes the significance of this protected area, highlighting the need to preserve not only the mountain but also the surrounding ecosystems and the cultural heritage associated with it.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve River

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is bounded by the Teesta River to the east. The Teesta River serves as a natural boundary for the biosphere reserve in that direction. It marks the eastern extent of the reserve, separating it from the surrounding areas.

The Teesta River originates from the high mountains of Sikkim and flows through the biosphere reserve, providing water resources and supporting the local ecosystems. The river is known for its scenic beauty and is an important water source for irrigation, hydropower generation, and sustenance of the surrounding communities.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Lake and Glaciers

Within the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, there are indeed numerous lakes and glaciers that contribute to the overall ecosystem. Here are some more specific details:

(1) Lakes:

The biosphere reserve is home to 73 important lakes, covering a total area of approximately 3.34 square kilometers (km²). These lakes are distributed across seven watersheds within the reserve. While specific lake names may vary, they collectively enhance the biodiversity and ecological significance of the region.

(2) Glaciers: 

Glaciers are an integral part of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, contributing to its landscape and hydrological systems. The most notable glacier in the reserve is the Zemu Glacier, which spans an impressive length of 26 kilometers (16 miles). Glaciers like Zemu Glacier are crucial for the preservation of water resources and provide habitats for unique flora and fauna species.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Tribe

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is home to several indigenous tribes who have inhabited the region for generations. These tribes have their distinct cultures, traditions, and ways of life, contributing to the rich cultural diversity of the area. The prominent indigenous tribes in the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is-

(1) Lepcha:

The Lepcha tribe is one of the major indigenous communities in the region. They have a long history of inhabiting the area and have traditionally relied on the forest resources for their livelihoods. The Lepcha people have a deep connection with the natural environment and possess traditional knowledge about the local flora, fauna, and ecosystems. They have their own language, traditional attire, music, dance forms, and religious practices.

(2) Bhutia:

The Bhutia community is another prominent indigenous tribe in the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. The Bhutia people have their own distinct culture, traditions, and language. They have been an integral part of the region for generations and have contributed to the cultural diversity and heritage of the area. The Bhutia community, along with the Lepcha and other indigenous tribes, plays a vital role in the conservation and preservation of the biosphere reserve's natural and cultural resources.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Flora

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is known for its rich and diverse flora, encompassing a wide range of plant species adapted to the varying altitudes and ecosystems within the reserve. The flora of the biosphere reserve includes various types of forests, alpine meadows, and floral species of ecological and cultural significance. 

Here are some key features of the flora in the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve:

(1) Temperate Forests:

The lower elevation regions of the biosphere reserve are characterized by temperate forests dominated by species such as oak (Quercus spp.), chestnut (Castanea spp.), maple (Acer spp.), and rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.). These forests support a diverse understory of shrubs, ferns, and herbaceous plants.

(2) Sub-alpine Forests:

As the elevation increases, the temperate forests transition into sub-alpine forests. These forests consist of species like fir (Abies spp.), birch (Betula spp.), hemlock (Tsuga spp.), and juniper (Juniperus spp.). Mosses, lichens, and other epiphytic plants are also abundant in these forests.

(3) Alpine Meadows:

At higher elevations, the vegetation changes to alpine meadows. These meadows are characterized by a variety of grasses, sedges, and wildflowers that bloom during the summer months. They provide crucial grazing habitats for wildlife such as yaks, musk deer, and various bird species.

(4) Medicinal and Aromatic Plants:

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is also rich in medicinal and aromatic plants, many of which hold traditional importance in the local communities. Species like Aconitum spp., Valeriana jatamansi, Picrorhiza kurroa, and Saussurea spp. are used in traditional medicine and have significant economic and cultural value.

(5) Orchids:

The biosphere reserve is home to a diverse array of orchid species. Sikkim alone has more than 500 orchid species, and many of them can be found within the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. These delicate and beautiful flowers are highly valued for their ornamental and horticultural importance.


Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Fauna (Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve Animals)

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its diverse and unique fauna, which includes a wide range of animal species adapted to the various habitats within the reserve. The region's rich biodiversity supports several endangered, rare, and endemic species. 

Here are some notable examples of the fauna found in the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve:


  • Snow Leopard
  • Red Panda
  • Himalayan Black Bear
  • Musk Deer
  • Himalayan Tahr
  • Serow
  • Goral
  • Clouded Leopard
  • Tibetan Wolf
  • Marbled Cat
  • Asiatic Golden Cat
  • Barking Deer
  • Himalayan Marmot
  • Himalayan Mouse-Hare
  • Assam Macaque
  • Rhesus Macaque 


  • Blood Pheasant
  • Himalayan Monal
  • Satyr Tragopan 
  • Himalayan Griffon
  • Golden Eagle
  • Lammergeier
  • Himalayan Owl
  • Fire-tailed Myzornis
  • White-browed Shortwing
  • Rufous-vented Tit
  • Red-billed Leiothrix
  • Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
  • Fire-tailed Sunbird
  • Himalayan Rubythroat
  • Black-throated Parrotbill


  • Common Pit Viper
  • Himalayan Keelback Snake
  • Himalayan Newt
  • Indian Rock Gecko
  • Himalayan Sun Skink
  • Boulenger's Skink
  • Himalayan Rat Snake
  • Green Pit Viper
  • Himalayan Worm Snake
  • Himalayan Water Snake

Top Things to do in Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve offers a range of exciting activities and attractions for visitors. Here are some of the top things to do in the reserve:

  • Trekking
  • Wildlife Spotting
  • Visit Pelling
  • Explore Yuksom
  • Lakes and Waterfalls
  • Cultural Immersion
  • Photography
  • Birdwatching
  • Mountaineering
  • Enjoy Local Cuisine

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve UPSC Questions

Q. Where is Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve located?/Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is situated in which state?

A. The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is located in the North and West Sikkim districts of Sikkim, India. 

Q. Which river flows through Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve?

A. Teesta river flows through Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve.

Q. What is Kanchenjunga biosphere reserve famous for?

A. The Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is famous for several reasons:

(1) Breathtaking Landscape: The reserve is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, characterized by the majestic Kanchenjunga mountain range, which includes the third-highest peak in the world, Mount Kanchenjunga. 

(2) Biodiversity Hotspot: The Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is a biodiversity hotspot, hosting a remarkable range of plant and animal species. It is home to diverse ecosystems, including sub-tropical broadleaf forests, temperate forests, alpine meadows, and glaciers. The reserve's rich biodiversity includes rare and endemic species, making it a significant area for conservation.

(3) Endangered Species: The reserve is famous for being a habitat for several endangered species. The elusive snow leopard, an iconic and endangered big cat, finds refuge in the reserve. Other endangered species such as red pandas, Himalayan black bears, musk deer, and Himalayan tahr also inhabit the region, adding to its conservation value and global recognition.

(4) Indigenous Cultures: The Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is home to various indigenous communities, including the Lepcha and Bhutia tribes. These communities have a deep connection with the land and possess rich cultural traditions, making the reserve a place of cultural significance and diversity.

(5) Trekking and Mountaineering: The reserve attracts adventure enthusiasts and trekkers from around the world. It offers a range of exciting trekking routes, including the famous Goecha La Trek and Dzongri Trek, which provide panoramic views of the mountains, glaciers, and pristine landscapes. Mountaineers also come to challenge themselves by attempting to summit Mount Kanchenjunga.

(6) Conservation Efforts: The Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is globally recognized for its conservation efforts. It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and plays a crucial role in preserving the region's unique biodiversity and cultural heritage. The reserve's conservation initiatives, including sustainable tourism practices and community involvement, contribute to its fame as a model for conservation.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

No comments:

Post a Comment