Kangchenjunga Factsheet

Name - When translated, Kangchenjunga means “the five treasures of snows”, the treasures represent the five repositories of God, which are gold, silver, gems, grain and holy books.

Location – India and Nepal. Three of the five peaks (main, central, and south) are in the North Sikkim district of India, while the other two (west and Kangbachen) are in the Tapeljung district of Nepal.

Elevation – An altitude of 8586 m, it is ranked as the third highest mountain in the world.

Climate - The climate is variable depending on its location along the elevation gradient. A prolonged wet season caused by the early arrival and late departure of the monsoons. In the Tapeljung district of North Eastern Nepal where the Kangchenjunga West and Kangbachen are situated is exposed to the full force of the monsoon and has humid summer conditions.

Topography – is characterized by narrow V-shaped valleys with steep side slopes. The area is drained by the Kabeli, Simbuwa, Gunsa and Yangma rivers which are tributaries of the Tamur River. These rivers cut deeply into the mountains, creating deep gorges.

Demographic Features – The district is relatively sparsely populated, the estimated population being 122,072. The dominant ethnic groups are the Limbu, Bhotia and Sherpa. The population is concentrated in the lower parts of the district.

People – People living in areas of high altitudes must cope with the climatic and geomorphological challenges that come with the terrain and the altitude that makes these places relatively unpredictable, low primary productivity and high environmental fragility in comparison to the lowland areas. Like the midhills, the high altitude areas are inhabited by different ethnic groups and speak a variety of languages and dialects. They are mainly Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups such as Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Jirel, Thakali, Magar, Gurung and Sherpa. Of these, the Sherpa communities generally live in the highest areas, beyond which there is no possibility of human settlement.

Lifestyle and Culture - People living at high altitudes have developed a number of different adaptive land strategies and practices for subsisting in the harsh conditions of mountain ecosystems. Five broad traditional subsistence agriculture strategies prevalent in the central and western Himalayas of Nepal and India are as follows: Settled, mixed farming; swidden agriculture; middle-altitude agropastoralism; high-altitude agropastoralism; and pastoral nomadism Overall, settled mixed farming is the most common practice, with middle and high altitude agropastoralism the most widespread adaptive strategies at higher altitudes. Terraces are carefully maintained for the cultivation of rice, wheat, maize, millet, mustards and vegetables. Pastoralism revolves around cattle, water buffalo, sheep, and goats, with seasonal altitudinal shifting of grazing areas, which in some cases include major long-distance movement to summer alpine pastures. This agropastoralism is said to be historically characteristic of Hindu Pahari hill-caste villagers in western Nepal, whose cultural origins and characteristics are closely related to the people of the Gangetic plain of India.. Transhumant herding of yak, cattle-yak crossbreeds, sheep, and goats is practiced. Many people are also involved in trading to exchange grain from middle-altitude groups for high altitude resources such as Tibetan salt and wool. People in this group are almost exclusively Buddhist, with a culture and lifestyle closely resembling that of the Tibetan people.

Biodiversity – The Kangchenjunga area’s diverse diverse climatic and topography bestow on it tremendous floristic diversity with approximately 2,000 species of flowering plants. Although the Kangchenjunga area covers only 1.48 percent of the total land area in terms of the total flora of Nepal. The largest families in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area are Compositae, Leguminosae, Orchidaceae, Rosaceae, Ericaeae and Graminae. Similarly the largest genera are Rhododendron, Rubus, Pedicularis and Primula. Many species in Nepal are threatened because of several factors. 60 species of flowering plants are listed as threatened species in Nepal. In the present study, 13 species of threatened are reported from Kangchenjunga. It was observed that one species is considered to be endangered (Michelia kisopa), three species to be commercially threatened (Aconitum spicatum, Bergenia ciliate, Larix Griffithiana), five species belong to the vulnerable category (Choerospondias axillaris, Nardostachys grandiflora, Paris polyphylla, Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora, Swertia chirayita), and two species belong to the rare category (Tetracentron sinense, Ulmus wallichiana). KCA is famous for pure forest strands of Himalayan Larch (Larix griffithiana) and numerous medicinal and aromatic plants. Of the 246 species of flowering plants endemic to Nepal, 23 species are recorded in Kangchenjunga.

A preliminary assessment indicates that the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area is home to 252 species of birds, 22 species of mammals, 82 species of insects, 5 species of fish and 6 species of amphibians. Moreover, it harbors endangered species such as the snow leopard and red panda and vulnerable species such as the Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard, serow, assamese macaque. Other species of wildlife found in Kangchenjunga are rhesus macaque, gray langur, porcupines, yellow-throated marten, smooth otter, fox, jackal, jungle cat, leopard cat, common leopard, beach marten, pika, musk deer, goral and barking dear. The local people say that many of these mammals are commonly sighted.

Work done by WWF Nepal in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area

Project History – Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project (KCAP) was initiated on 22 March 1998 by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation with technical and financial support from WWF Nepal. The project played a crucial role in extending the territory of KCA from 1,659km2 to 2.035 km2 and in formulating the Conservation Area Government Management Regulation, 2000.

Goal and Objectives - The ultimate goal of KCAP is “to conserve the biodiversity of the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area”. The project is implemented in such a way that the primary focus is to strengthen the capacity of local communities to manage their natural resources and improve their livelihood opportunities.


  • Forests- To achieve forest conservation in the KCA in the Eastern Himalayan eco-region through community-based organizations.
  • Species- To conserve species of special concern (snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear, musk deer) while maintaining their habitats integrity.
  • Sustainable Community Development - To promote sustainable community development in order to improve livelihood opportunities while reducing pressure on local natural resources.
  • Education and Capacity Building- To enhance the capacity of local people as well as institutions through conservation education and capacity building programs.
  • Communication- To provide awareness of the KCA through local, national and international media coverage.
  • Policy and Advocacy- To improve regional collaborations for landscape level conservation of the Kangchenjunga mountain ecosystem.

- Multipurpose community forest nursery
- Plantation and regeneration
- Efficient alternative energy technologies
- Community-based Natural Resources Management

- Snow leopard monitoring
- Wildlife monitoring
- Snow Leopard Conservation Committee formation
- Research and study

Sustainable Community Development
- Basic infrastructure improvement
- Sustainable eco-tourism
- Income generation
- Health and sanitation

Education and Capacity Building
- Education support
- Capacity building

- Internal
- External

Policy and advocacy
- Regulation formulation
- Area change
- Coordination meetings

Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project: A Retrospective 1998-2005
Rastogi, Ajay., Pei Shengji, Devendra Amatya. WWF Nepal and ICIMOD. 1997. Regional Consultation on Conservation of the Kanchanjunga Mountain Ecosystem

Compiled by: Cynthia Mary Sinclair, Intern - WWF Nepal