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Jammu & Kashmir Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary
The Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the lesser-known protected areas in Jammu and Kashmir. Its particular reclusive nature among the tourists is perhaps because of the remoteness of its location and a rough geographical setting. With the Kanji village nestled in the dusty plateau, between rocky slopes, at an average height of around 3875 meters above the sea level, the Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary occupies almost 250 sq km of the craggy and mountainous landscape of the Kanji River Valley.
One of the many niche sanctuaries set up for the preservation and protection of particular species of rare and endangered species of animals, Kanji is seldom experiences the thoroughfare of tourists for naturalist reasons. Located in the Kargil and Leh districts of Jammu and Kashmir the conditions in the remote Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary are rugged and unwelcoming, with bitter cold and arid climate combined with rock landscape, there is no human habitation except the 30-odd families that make up the Kanji village.
Around 100 sq km of area Kanji River in Ladakh was gazzeted as the ‘Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary’ in 1981 and was attached to the wildlife section of Kargil of Jammu and Kashmir. Historically, the Kanji village was a remote settlement (and still is) on the highest pass called Kanji La (perched at an height of 5150 m above sea level) that was an important passage for traders and travelers who crisscrossed the Central Asian region. Later, the Kanji La became a base camp for mountaineers and adventurers who wished to trek the immediate Shilakong Gorge or further up into the peaks if Ladakh.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
The overall climate of the Kanji Wildlife sanctuary is harsh, given the high altitude and arid landscape. In addition, the remoteness, because of only a couple routes to the region, makes it impossible to reach in bad weather, especially winter. The best time to visit Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary is during summer, as all the mountain trails and passes are opened with the melting of the highest snow and are frequented by tourist trekking parties and locals alike.
How to Reach
The nearest airports are at Kargil and Leh at 120 km from Kanji. The Srinagar Airport is the closest international airport with flights to Leh and to all the major cities in India and some international hubs.
The nearest railway station is that of Jammu at a distance of 306km from Leh and 236 km from Kargil and Kanji can be reached via both towns.
Road is the only way to reach the Kanji village that is the only human habitation in and around the Sanctuary. Most tourist services run frequently and smoothly between Kargil and Heniskot, which is the most popular route, connected by National Highway 1, which further extends to Leh (Ladhakh) and at one point it crosses the Kanji River.
There is sparse avifauna in Kanji valley accredited to the meager plant life restricted to arid shrubs and all the birdlife is restricted to the deciduous flora along the river. Some of the more important of the few species are the Chakur Partridge and the Himalayan Snow Cock.
The Snow Leopard is the most important mammal in the Kanji Sanctuary and it was its preservation that has led to the area being protected. Apart from the difficult-to-spot Snow Leopard, the mountain goats like Ibex, Urial and other mammals like the Yaks and Long-tailed Marmot are common.
Trekking is possible only in the low-lying regions and the observation posts of the wildlife warden are available.
Where to Stay
The town of Heniskot is the best bet for staying near Kanji Wildlife Sanctuary, because of its easy access to Kanji Village.
- All tourist visits and detailed information is available only with the Regional Wildlife Warden (Kargil), whose office must be approached if a safari or a research or enthusiastic expedition is to be arranged.