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Kedarnath (Musk Deer) Wildlife Sanctuary

Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary, also called the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary, is a national sanctuary in Uttarakhand, India. Its alternate name comes from its primary purpose of protecting the endangered Himalayan musk deer. Consisting of an area of 975 km2 (376 sq mi), it is the largest protected area in the western Himalayas. It is internationally important for the diversity of its flora and fauna (particularly of ungulate species).

Located in the Himalayan Highlands with an elevation ranging from 1,160 m (3,810 ft) (near Phata) to the Chaukhamba peak at 7,068 m (23,189 ft), it was a notified reserve forest between 1916 and 1920. It was changed to a sanctuary on January 21, 1972, and has been designated a “Habitat/Species Management Area” by the IUCN. Since 1972, the area of the park has expanded from 967–975 ha (2,390–2,409 acres).

The sanctuary straddles a geographically diverse landscape and transitional environment. IUCN has reported that “From 44.4% to 48.8% of the sanctuary is forested, 7.7% comprises alpine meadows and scrub, 42.1% is rocky or under permanent snow and 1.5% represents formerly forested areas that have been degraded.”

The sanctuary takes its name from the famous Hindu temple of Kedarnath which is just outside its northern border. The entire 14 km (9 mi) route from Ghauri Khund to Kedarnath temple (3,584 m or 11,759 ft) passes through the sanctuary.

Geographically situated in the Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand, Lying within the larger Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows of alpine ecoregion of India, Nepal and Tibet, the sanctuary is at its higher altitudes are characterised by glaciers which have, through glacial action over centuries, created deep “v” shaped valleys in the sanctuary. River valleys, generally in a north-south direction, are formed by the Mandakini, Kali, Biera, Balasuti and Menan rivers. The geological formation in the catchment is made up of “Central Crystallines” that are metamorphic rocks such as gneisses, granites and schists. The highest peaks in India are located in the Garhwal Himalayas where the sanctuary is delimited.

The sanctuary has a large number of Hindu temples located within its precincts. Kedarnath temple is the most historic of these and is visited by a very large number of pilgrims. This temple dates to the 8th century. Other temples, though not of matching importance, have strong legends related to the epic Mahabharata days. These are the Mandani, Madhyamaheshwar, Tungnath, Ansuya Devi and Rudranath. The local Hindu culture is also imbibed by the Bhotiyas (may be with some Tibetan link) who have pastoral work culture and are an integral part of the valleys. Visitors to these temples have occasionally been attacked by wildlife.

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