Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary


The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) (30°25′–30°41′N, 78° 55′–79°22′E) is located in the Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts of the state of Uttarakhand and is one of the largest protected areas in the state. The sanctuary was established in 1972, covering a total area of 975.20 km2. The sanctuary lies in the upper catchment of the Alaknanda and Mandakini Rivers. The altitude ranges from 1,160 to 7,068 m asl, as the Sanctuary is bordered by Kedarnath (6940 m), Mandani (6193 m) and Chaukhamba (7068 m) peaks in the north. The area receives annual rainfall of about 3000 mm with maximum contribution during monsoon (June to September). Heavy snowfall takes place during the winter months (December to February) in the alpine and temperate regions. The area comes under West Himalayan zone in the Palearctic realm (Rodgers and Panwar, 1988).

Over 1100 plant species are recorded from KWS, classified under five major forest types. This high plant richness is attributed to its location at the junction of the Indian sub-continent and Indo-China biogeographic region (Dinerstein, 1997). The vide elevation gradient has given rise to diverse vegetation types that range from Himalayan moist temperate forest dominated by Quercus spp. to sub-alpine forest and extensive alpine meadows (Champion and Seth, 1968). It is estimated that about 44.4 - 48.8% of the sanctuary is forested, with 7.7% comprising of alpine meadows and 1.5% degraded areas or wastelands. The varied landscape of the sanctuary provides a multitude of habitats for wildlife, making it rich in faunal diversity with over 30 species of mammals, 240 species of birds, 147 of butterflies, nine of snakes and 10 of fishes recorded from the Sanctuary. The Sanctaury is home to the endangered Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster), thus having high conservation significance.

Nearly 173 villages are located in the fringes of the sanctuary, with the inhabitants depending heavily on resources of KWS for their day-to-day sustenance and livelihood. Studies have evidenced habitat destruction and successional changes in the area because of ongoing unsustainable harvesting and logging practices. Increased influx of religious and adventurous tourists has augmented the pressure on forests as a result of heightened fuelwood demand by dhaba and hotel owners. The recent frequent flash floods and landslides in the region have further reduced the forest area.

 Chaukhamba Peak as seen from Budha Madhmaheshwer   A view of diverse landscape of KWS  Timberline at Tungnath inside KWS

a) Chaukhamba Peak as seen from Budha Madhmaheshwer b) A view of diverse landscape of KWS c)Timberline at Tungnath inside KWS

©Upma Manral


  • Malik, Z.A., Bhat, J.A., and Bhatt, A.B. (2014). Forest resource use pattern in Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary and its fringe areas (a case study from Western Himalaya, India). Energy Policy, 67, 138-145.
  • Singh, A.P. (2009). Butterflies of Kedarnath Musk Deer Reserve, Garhwal Himalaya, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 1(1), 37-48.
  • Thakur, A.K., Singh, G., Singh, S., and Rawat, G.S. (2011). Impact of pastoral practices on forest cover and regeneration in the outer fringes of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Himalaya. Journal of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing, 39(1), 127-134.