Khangchendzonga National Park and Biosphere Reserve

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 84,950 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2003 not assessed high not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2004 baseline)
The Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) is a part of Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve (KBR). The KNP/KBR complex situated in North and West Sikkim districts is the biggest IBA in Sikkim, occupying nearly 40% of the State. It lies entirely along the Sikkim-Nepal border and includes the Khangchendzonga Range from the South Lhonak Glacier in trans-Himalayan Sikkim down to Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in the South Sikkim. This IBA stretches eastwards up to Tsungthang in North Sikkim with the Tista river flowing south from the Tso Lhamo cold desert forming its eastern boundary for most part. The Rathong-Rangit valleys in the southern part of this IBA are a trekkers paradise with flora from lowland subtropical forests to alpine meadows and snowcapped peaks and glaciers. This IBA has the world’s third highest (and India’s highest) peak Mt. Khangchendzonga (8,598 m) and is hence the highest altitude wildlife protected area in India. Most of the core area of this IBA is permanently snowbound with a large number of peaks which are climbers’ delights, while the peripheral areas including buffer zones and habitation are more important wildlife habitats. The area is a spectacular wilderness, with snowy peaks towering above some fine forests that remain virtually undisturbed (Khacher 1980). The Park must rank as one of the most important protected areas in the entire Himalayas (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). Khangchendzonga is considered to be the finest example of an independent mountain having its own glacial system radiating from its several summits. It also boasts some of the most magnificent snow and ice scenery in the world (Smythe 1930).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Some important birding habitats here are Dentam-Uttarey-Chitrey- Chewabhanjyang, the Rathong Chu Valley along the Yoksum- Dzongri-Goecha La trekking trail, Tashiding, Rabdentse, Dubdi, Khecheopalri all in West Sikkim; Tholung Valley in Dzongu, Tsungthang-Menshithang-Lachen- Thangu, the Muguthang-Green Lake route including the Zemu Glacier-Zemu Chu Valley, all in North Sikkim. Due to the size and altitude elevations in this IBA, birds recorded are from at least four biomes. Thus this IBA has at least 127 bird species of conservation concern including seven globally threatened and restricted range species, 24 species of Biome-5, 67 of Biome-7, 26 of Biome-8 and three listed in Biome-9. Birds like Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni have been recorded from northern Trans-Himalayan part of the IBA while Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri has been sighted in Lake Khecheopalri along with wintering Mergansers Mergus merganser and Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis (Ganguli-Lachungpa 1991), Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Common Teal Anas crecca and Tufted Pochard Aythya fuligula. The Osprey Pandion haliaetus, protected under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, was killed at Yoksum while fishing in the State Forest Department’s fishpond (Ganguli-Lachungpa 1990). Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis has been recorded from the Muguthang area of Lhonak Valley IBA contiguous to the north (Ganguli- Lachungpa 1998). A large loose flock of dark eagles (unidentified) was videographed, during a trek to Dzongri in December 1999, flying southwards along with Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis and Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003). Local Lepcha people at Tholung report a unique phenomenon of congregations of either Ashy Wood-Pigeon Columba pulchricollis or Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus near the Tholung hot-springs (a day’s trek from jeepable road) in summer (Chumden Nangpa pers. comm. 2000), an annual event that has got disrupted due to development of the area for tourism (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003). High altitude lakes at Kishong La are important stopover sites not only for migratory waterfowl but also for resident breeding birds like Brahminy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea {ducklings collected from here in 1986 survived for around five years at Gangtok’s Deer Park enclosure at Tashiling Secretariat (C. B. Bhujel pers comm. 2000)}.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Given the size and altitudinal range of this IBA, most of the representative species of wildlife in Sikkim, barring those found on the Tibetan plateau such as Tibetan Wild Ass Equus hemionus kiang and some found east of the Tista river such as Takin Budorcas taxicolor, could be found here.Around 19 mammals protected under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 including Bharal Pseudois nayaur, Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus, Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus, Python Python molurus, beetles and butterflies, also protected species, are reported; but there have been no systematic surveys other than sporadic collection trips of the Zoological Survey of India in the past two decades.

Key contributors: Sandeep Tambe and Usha Lachungpa.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Khangchendzonga National Park and Biosphere Reserve. Downloaded from on 23/09/2023.