Ecology, economics and equity of the pastoral systems in the Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim Himalaya, India

The Khangchendzonga National Park is a part of the eastern Himalaya global biodiversity hotspot and is located in the Sikkim state of India. Increasing livestock populations coupled with the government policy to ban grazing and its selective implementation resulted in conflict. Hence we undertook this multidisciplinary study involving consultations with traditional resource users, field surveys, and remote sensing. We found that in the greater Himalayan part, over the past 6 decades sheep have been increasingly replaced by yaks (and their crossbreeds), who descend only up to the multilayered temperate and subalpine forests during winter. These forests have been extensively manipulated by the yak herders to increase the fodder availability. In terms of economics and equity in benefit sharing, we found that a few yak herders earn high incomes by maintaining large herds while the sheep and pack animal herders earn subsistence level incomes from small herds. We propose a reduction in yak (and their female crossbreed) numbers with adequate alternative livelihood support for the herders.