Plants & Animals West Sikkim
West Sikkim houses a great diversity of flora and fauna, tropical zone the area of terraced farmlands in which the rice, maize, barley, and millet are grown, many of which are used by Indigenous and local communities. The jungles in the south have plantains, bamboos, tree ferns, walnut, Sal and oak trees. Above 3,800m the slopes are full.
Sikkim can be basically divided into three zones. The tropical from almost sea level to about 5000 feet, the temperate from 5000 to 11000 feet and the alpine above 11000 feet. Till 10000 feet, there are terraced farmlands in which the rice, maize, barley and millet are grown. Cardamoms, oranges, apples, potatoes and ginger are grown in abundance in the state. The lower altitudes towards the south harbour jungle cats, Mongoose, House sparrows. The jungles in the south, are teeming with plantains, bamboos, tree ferns, walnut, sal and oak. Orchids also abound in areas with moderate altitudes. They are the pride of Sikkim and are about 600 species. They come in a wide variety of colours and sizes. The most popular orchids of Sikkim are Cymbidiums, Vanda, Cattaleya, Hookeriana, Farmeri, Dendrobium Amoenum. The Nobile Orchid has been declared as the State Flower of Sikkim.
The diversity in the plant world is complemented by a similar variety in the animal kingdom. Amongst the mammals of Sikkim are the rare Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Red panda, Musk Deer, Blue Sheep, Shapi, Common Langur, Leopard Cat, and the Flying Squirrel.
Shapi is a rare animal that inhabits the alpine region. It was discovered only in 1938 by a German doctor Ernest Schalfer. The Shapi has the size of a mountain goat and has a long white mane. The Shapi is an endangered animal which is on the verge of becoming extinct.
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. It has been declared as the State Animal of Sikkim. It is about 2 feet in length when full grown and belongs to the racoon family. It feeds mostly on bamboo leaves.
These are found roaming in the temperate forest of Sikkim. They feed on corn, wild plants, honey and can sometime grow to enormous sizes.
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.
Among the more commonly found animals in the alpine zone are yaks. Yaks belong to the cattle family and can survive only at altitudes above 10000 feet. They survive on alpine shrubs and can go without food for days together. Due to the long and thick hair that grows on its flanks, legs and tail and its thick hide, yaks can comfortably sleep and rest in the snow. Yaks forage on their own and do not require grooming, stabling and care as required by other domesticated animals. Yaks have been domesticated in Sikkim and are used as beasts of burden as well as for their meat and milk which though produced in small quantities is very thick. Yak milk is extensively used for preparing Churpi which is hardened cheese. The hide and hair is used for making crude canvas, tents, carpets and blankets. Crossbreeds of yaks with cows are known as Dzo’s and these can survive at lower altitudes and are extensively used as pack animals for trekking and expedition in both lower and higher altitudes.
Birds, butterflies and fishes
Over 400 varieties of butterflies and moths adorn the forest with colour and life. Giant Lammergeier Vultures, Bearded Vulture, Eagle, Whistling Thursh, Minivet, Bulbul and Pheasant are some from among the 550 species of birds recorded in Sikkim, some of which have been declared endangered. Some other coloured birds are the emeral dove, fairy blue bird, kingfisher, ashy woodpecker, sultan tit and the emerald cuckoo. Many migratory birds like the Ruddy Shelduck also visit Sikkim. There are also a wide variety of pheasants in various colours. Blood Pheasant is declared as the State Bird of Sikkim. Various types of fishes are also found in the lakes and rivers of Sikkim. There are 45 species of fish in sikkim which include the trout, salmon and carp. Fishing is allowed with a permit. There are 40 species of reptiles which include various types of lizards, snakes, krait and cobra.