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Flora And Fauna

The gigantic mountain walls and steep-wooded hillsides of Sikkim draw their nourishment from torrential rivers such as the Teesta and the Rangit, and are a botanist's dream.

The lower slopes abound in orchids. Sprays of cardamom carpet the forest floor, and the land is rich with apple orchards, orange groves and terraced paddy fields. The Tibetans used to call this place Denzong, or 'the land of rice'.

At higher altitudes, one can find huge tracts of lichen-covered forests, where every conceivable species of rhododendron and giant magnolia trees punctuate the deep cover.

Higher still, approaching the Tibetan plateau, dwarf rhododendron provide vital fuel for yak herders. Snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, tahr (wild ass), bharal or blue sheep, and the endangered red panda, the symbol of Sikkim, inhabit the forests.

Avian life too is abundant with the giant lammergeyer, vultures, eagles, whistling thrushes, minivets, bulbuls, and pheasants, among the 550 species seen in Sikkim.

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