Human Ecology

, 39:657 | Cite as

The Heterogeneity of Khumbu Sherpa Ecological Knowledge and Understanding in Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone, Nepal

  • Jeremy SpoonEmail author


The ecological knowledge and understanding of indigenous peoples and long-term settlers is heterogeneous and continually in flux as they adapt to ecological, political and economic changes. This research focuses on Khumbu Sherpa ecological knowledge and its relation to environmental decision-making. The Sherpa, Tibetan Buddhists who practice agro-pastoralism, provide tourism services to visitors of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone. Utilizing mixed quantitative and qualitative methods, I selected a stratified random sample of 100 individuals to assess spiritual values, and species and landscape knowledge. The results generally showed that individuals who lived on the tourist route and younger generations had less knowledge of these domains. These findings suggest that some Sherpa ecological knowledge and understanding had shifted from spiritual and agro-pastoralist socioeconomic values to a more tourism-centered economic logic. Future environmental decisions may be influenced by these changes.


Ecological knowledge and understanding Heterogeneity Tourism Sherpa Himalayas 



This research was funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and is dedicated to the memory of my late mentor Nina L. Etkin. I wish to thank the entire Khumbu Sherpa community and the staff at Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal, and the Khumbu Bijuli Company. I am especially indebted to my mentor and friend Dr. Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa and my research assistants, Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Ngima Nuru Sherpa. I also wish to thank Ismael Vaccaro, Gene Anderson, Jefferson Fox, Bryan Bushley and Sarah Jovan for reading various drafts of this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Portland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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