Sikkim stretches from
the low lands in the south with tropical climate to the
mountainous regions in the north with summits that touch the
skies. The altitude varies right from sea level to mountain peaks
covering a wide spectrum of flora and fauna. Nowhere in the world
in such a small area can one find flora and fauna of all varieties
- Tropical to the Alpines. Sikkim's botanical and zoological
richness is awe- inspiring, boasting of more than 4000 species of
plants and 30% of all the birds found in the Indian sub-continent
Truly a naturalist's delight. The hillsides and mountain slopes of
Sikkim are strewn with bright patches of myriad colours. The lower
mountain slopes are abundant with lush green bamboos and ferns.
And the northern valleys are draped with wild cherry, oaks,
chestnuts, pines and white magnolia. The higher altitudes are
abloom with a carpet of rhododendrons with a splendour of their
own. Sikkim's 600 varieties of orchids are a feast for the eye.
Luxuriant forests cover 36% of the land. The lowlands in the south
between 800 feet to 5000 feet experience a tropical climate. Here
you find lush green vegetation including figs, laurel, Sal trees
and bamboos. Some of the areas have been cleared for farming. The
temperate forest of oak, chestnut, maple, birch, alder, magnolia
and silver fir dominates between 5000 ft and 13000 ft. Above
13000ft, is the alpine zone where juniper, cypresses and
rhododendrons grow. The perpetual snowline lies at 16000 ft.
More than 4000 species of plant have been recorded in Sikkim. Over
600 species of orchids grow in Sikkim, Epiphytal and terrestrial
types, in the tropical and temperate zones. 35 species of
rhododendrons grow in temperate and alpine regions, their
flowering from May to August covering the hillsides in a riot of
The diversity in the plant world is complemented by a similar
variety in the animal kingdom. Over 400 varieties of butterflies
and moths adorn the forest with colour and life. Giant Lammergeier
Vultures, Eagles, Whistling Thursh, Minivets, Bulbuls and
Pheasants are some from among the 550 species of birds recorded in
Sikkim some of which have been declared endangered.
Among the more commonly found animals in the alpine zone are yaks.
They are domesticated and reared in North Sikkim mainly for their
economic productiveness. Yak milk is used to make butter `churpi',
the wool comes in handy as raw material for carpets and blankets.
The musk deer, found in the upper temperate regions, is today a
species in the endangered list. A common denizen of Sikkim is the
muntjac, or the Barking Deer.
Among the more exotic mammals is the Red Panda which lives mostly
on treetops. It is found at altitudes ranging from 6,000 to 12,000
feet. The snow leopard is an almost mythical animal. It has rarely
been sighted and to date, only two field zoologists have succeeded
in photographing this elusive animal in its habitat which can vary
from 5,000 feet to as high as 18,000 feet. Blue sheep, flying
squirrels, binturong, tahrs, marmots and musk deer are at home in
this cool blanket of green.
Most of this beautiful and virgin area comes under the
Khangchendzonga National Park.
Sikkim also has large cardamom, orange and tea plantations. The
rivers of Sikkim have trout, salmon and carp. Fishing is allowed
with a permit.
International Flower Festival
The International Flower Festival is held during the months of
March-May, when most of the state's 600 species of orchids, 240
species of trees and 240 species of ferns, 150 kinds of gladioli,
46 varieties of the world famous rhododendrons, equally varied
species of magnolias and many other foliage plants are in full
Major categories are orchids, gladioli, annuals, roses, alpine
plants, pot plants, cacti, succulents, creepers, climbers, ferns,
herbs and even wild flowers.
Lectures and seminars are held by the experts in each field. A
food festival is also organised.