Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary - Himalayan Zoological Park - Ratey Chu Reserve Forest

Site description (2004 baseline):

Site location and context
Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary is located in East Sikkim on a mountain range opposite Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.The highest point of the Sanctuary is the Tinjurey Peak (2,750 m), which is connected by mountainous ridges to Fambong Lho Peak and Ragorathai Peak. The Sanctuary is girdled with a number of growing villages. The word ‘Fambong Lho’ seems to have come from the Lepcha word Hambomloh for the local avocado trees Machilus edulis and M. odoratissima. The Himalayan Zoological Park above Gangtok is adjacent to the Sanctuary, separated by the Rani Khola (river). Both the Fambong Lho and the Gangtok ranges form part of the catchment of the Rani Khola (Anon. 2002) and are contiguous with the Ratey Chu Reserve Forest. The main vegetation of this IBA includes Oak Quercus lamellosa and ‘Katus’ Castanopsis hystrix. Rhododendron arboreum interspersed with Lyonia ovalifolia are seen gregariously on high hills and saddles. The IBA is also home to a large number of wild orchids, mosses, ferns and Lycopodium spp. (Anon. 2002).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Over 281 species of birds have been reported from this area, opposite the bustling township of Gangtok (Anon. 2002). Of these, the Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis not seen since the slaughterhouse at Gangtok was shifted to south to Rangpo almost a decade ago. The Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis reported by Ali (1962) from Gangtok has not been sighted lately.The Beautiful Nuthatch Sitta formosa is a globally threatened is still found, while the Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra was remarkably easily netted and ringed both in Fambong Lho and Himalayan Zoological Park in the 2001 BNHS Bird-Banding Programme. The Red-breasted Hill-Partridge Arborophila mandellii was reported by Ali (1962) from Gangtok but not heard or sighted recently unlike the commoner Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola. The Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis and the White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri are restricted range species reported from this IBA (Anon 2002). In this Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area, four out of 21 restricted range species, at least five out of 48 Biome-5 species, 49 out of 112 Biome-7 species, 38 out of 96 Biome-8 species and three out of 19 Biome-9 species are found (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003). Other bird species include the biome-restricted Mountain Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia, Slaty-headed Parakeet Psittacula himalayana, Red-winged crested Cuckoo Calamator coromandus, Large Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis, Blue-naped Pitta Pitta nipalensis, Orange-bellied Chloropsis Chloropsis hardwickii, Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii, and Spotted Forktail Enicurus maculatus. The Nepal House Martin Delichon nipalensis nests under school roofs while the Common Swallow annually returns to nest in four shops in the heart of Gangtok (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Over 50 species of mammals have been reported from the Sanctuary. Important ones are the Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla, Red Panda Ailurus fulgens Leopard-Cat Prionailurus bengalensis, Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus and Hodgson’s Flying Squirrel Petaurista magnificus (Anon. 2002). Glass Snake/ Lizard Ophiosaurus gracilis has also been seen here (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2002).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Grazing; Plantations; Deforestation.

The Sanctuary is one of the rare protected areas declared on public demand. The State Forest Department received a request from the people in its surrounding villages. They were concerned about the increasing deforestation and overgrazing in their catchment area, which would affect their future. The area was originally used intensively for cattle grazing and the soil in the Golitar area had been compacted over a large area. Ground vegetation in some areas was poor and Oaks were lopped for fodder. Most of the old Oaks are now gone. Large cardamom plantations which had encroached on the fringes of the Sanctuary have now been removed. There are also thick stands of the exotic conifer Cryptomeria japonica planted by the Forest Department before declaring the area as a wildlife sanctuary (Anon. 2002). A large campus of the G. B. Pant Institute for Himalayan Environment and Development has come up at the edge of the Sanctuary, encouraging more commercial investors. Eco-development Committees have been formed in villages surrounding the Sanctuary. In less than three years the ‘Smriti Van’ or Memorial Forest concept of the State Forest Department has been adopted successfully through various NGOs in a large degraded forest area adjoining the 205 ha Himalayan Zoological Park at Bulbuley enhancing the forest contiguity with Ratey Chu. This has greatly helped the water regime, benefiting the state capital, Gangtok.

Key contributor: Usha Lachungpa.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary - Himalayan Zoological Park - Ratey Chu Reserve Forest. Downloaded from on 25/09/2023.