Kyongnosla Alpine Wildlife Sanctuary
Kyongnosla and Tsomgo lie on the Gangtok-Natu La highway in East Sikkim. The Sanctuary has dense bamboo thickets and typical temperate vegetation with Rhododendron – Silver Fir – Juniper forest and ground flora like Aconites, Potentilla,Aster, Iris, ground orchids and wild strawberries. There are steep cliffs that are snowbound throughout the year, as also open areas used by livestock in summer, until a recent ban by the government on grazing in forest areas. This IBA is a popular tourist destination barely 40 km from the State capital, Gangtok.
Situated at the elevation between 10,000ft to 13000ft the Kyongnosla sanctuary abounds in alpine flowers like Primulas, Poppies, Magnolias and Rhododendron. The sanctuary is home to several endemic floral species of Himalayas particularly medicinal plants and orchids. Some huge and majestic silver firs spread over the area towering above the dense rhododendron forests and fields of tiny flowering plants. There are also dense bushes of bamboos at the lower altitudes, which forms an ideal habitat for animals like the Red Panda. The difficult terrain of the region has still kept a large portion of the sanctuary as unexplored.
The Kyongnosla Sanctuary commands a breathtaking view of Kanchenjunga peak in the west and Mt. Pandim and Mt. Norsing in the southern side. This unique high altitude scenic sanctuary is also rich in its wildlife divercity. Among the most important species found here apart from Red Panda are Snow leopard, Musk deer, various species of mountain goat and sheep, Himalayan black bear, raptors such as black eagle, black winged kite and kestrel and pheasants such as monals and blood pheasant etc. Although it is difficult to spot an animal on one’s journey to Tsongo Lake and Nathula, but the Kyongnosla Sanctuary is one of the safest refuge of these rare species because of the strict protection by forest department and army personnel. The difficult terrain is also an assistance to save the endangered animals.
More than 230 species of birds have been identified (U. Lachungpapers. comm. 2003). Outside Khangchendzonga National Park, this is the site where the State Bird of Sikkim, the Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus, is found, probably in significant numbers. Among the globally threatened species of this site, the most prominent one would be the Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola, as it possibly
breeds here (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003). Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra at the upper limit of its range, and Himalayan Monal Lophophophorus impejanus, the former considered as Near Threatened (BirdLife International 2001), are also residents. The Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota come down here in winter.
Other species of interest are the Fire-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga ignicauda and Gold-naped Black Finch Pyrrhoplectes epauletta, birds of temperate forest. Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus with Tufted Pochard Aythya fuligula were seen
occasionally in Tsomgo Lake during the winter Asian Waterfowl Census (AWC). Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus was once seen in the forest patch below Tamzey during a survey for Red Panda in 1998 (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003).
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