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Keibul Lamjao: The pride of Manipur today in deplorable state

by Sh Ajit
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By- Sh. Ajit
Imphal, Feb 9:

On the second edition for the Keibul Lamjao National Park 5th to 6th February All Manipur Working Journalists Union President Bijoy Kakchitabam flag off from Manipur press club.
We reached Keibul Lamjao national park and then went to another to search Sangai at Khordak forest IB and reached afternoon. After reaching Khordrak forest IB, I walked to the Keibul Lamjao national park around 4 km and then saw a tower. Nearby some Hog deers and Sambars eating newly sprouted grasses. And I see some Sangai four to five. They are very sensitive. And again early in the morning at 3am I walked to the same place and while waiting at Sangai around 7 am i saw four to five Sangai capture photos. Capturing a photo of Sangai is not an easy thing because they are very sensitive.
N Birchandra range forest officer of the Keibul Lamjao national park drawer attention the Manipur Government that the staffs are mostly casuals and lack of man power they fully cannot protect the hunter . The hunter used Gun but the staff did not have any gun so the staff used stick to prevent the hunter. When rainy season national park is flood and the Sangai and other animal mainly stay at  the  pabot island in Manipuri (Pabotching )  the mani factor is Ethai barrage .
Its the pride of Manipur and India so we need to protect this rear animal. it’s not the responsibility for the Government but for the peoples also. The keibul Lamjao National park is fully surrounded by the houses and anchorage land of the park. Before the construction of the Loktak Hydro Electric Project, the phumdis floated during flooding by backflow from the Khordak River and discharge from other streams and small drain and settled down on lake bed during dry season when water was drawn out through the same river. This resulted in enhancing of nutrients and minerals of the phumdi vegetation from the bottom of the lake during the dry period. But this cycle has been disturbed by the Loktak Hydro Electric project. One apprehension is that at some stage the phumdis may not be able to support the number of the Eld’s deer or sangai deer.
The park Conservation area comprises a core area of 40 sq km and the buffer of Loktak Lake 140 sq km and Pumlen pat 43 sq km. The area along with buffer area is located in the southern part of Bishnupur district and eastern part of Thoubal district. The largest area of the Phumdi in the Loktak lake is in the Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is home to Manipur brow-antlered deer (Rucervus eldi eldi) also popularly known as the Sangai. The habitat exclusively consists of floating meadows and an elevated strip of hard ground that dissects the park into northern and southern zones, which has been declared RAMSER site.
We need to remember the past history of who reported Sangai on the international platform. It’s a British officer Lt Eld Percy. And Manipur is indebted to Lt Eld Percy who was Assistant to the Commissioner of Assam. From his report dated 21st May 1841 entitled “Further Notice of a Nondescript of Deer Indicated” we know that he was the first person to bring our Sangai to the notice of the people outside Manipur. Though the deer was locally known as Sangai, the name was not listed in the Animal Kingdom before 1841. The deer was named Cervus eldi eldi Mc Cleland 1842 to honour Lt Eld Percy. Sangai (Cervus eldi eldi McClelland, 1842), the Manipur Sub-species is only found in Keibul Lamjao National park.
However it is not an endemic species of the habitat. Experiments prove that this deer can thrive in different coun­tries too.
Our Sangai differs from other groups of deer in the pillowing aspects. Antlers are set in the head at right angles to the pedicle. Brow tines form a con­tinuous curve with the beams. In most cases the opposite antlers are not symmetrical. The pasterns are hairless, hard and horny. Toes are somewhat separable due to long adaptation to the swamp (Phumdi).
The stags (males) have  coarse hairs  and development. The hinds (females’ are small and have fine hairs. The stags are pugnacious; in fact, many of them were found with scratches on the head or blind of an eye. The hinds are of a slender body with a smooth coat. These Sangais throw their heads back more than other deers before moving or running to avoid the danger of getting their antlers entangled in the tall reeds. This pose becomes a long carried habit in their habitat. Probably early writers ignored this reasoning and assumed that the deer looked at them while running as testified by Lt. Col. H. S. Wood who wrote, “The Manipuri Deer is full of curiosity. The Manipuri name is Sangai or the animal that looks at you”.
The deer (stag) stands about 4 ft at the shoulder. There is seasonal change in their colouration, from brown in the winter to chest­nut in the summer. The muzzle is more or less white as are the insides of its ears. The stags shed their antlers in late June seasonally. (These shedded antlers properly investigated reveal the age of the stag). New antlers grow in velvet till November when they become full sized. In December the antlers become clear of velvet. The antlers are then hardened and remain so till early June.
The antlers are strong in the rutting season. It seems to indicate that we cannot rule out some hormone activity in con­nection with the shedding of the antlers. Because prior to the rutting sea­son the deer sharpen its antlers by opening the velvet with the help of some hard tree trunk. On the other hand the hinds shine their hairs by rubbing the body on the grass field. This phenomenon can only be ob­served in a particular month of the year.
An odoriferous fluid is secreted in the tear pits beneath the eyes and four toes on both front and hind feet of the stag as well as the hind. The smell of this fluid helps stags or hinds to track its partner of the oppo­site sex during the mating season. Female gives only one offspring rea­ching prime at about 6-7 years.
Concern about the dwindling numbers of our unique SANGAI had already been expressed as early as 1934. J. C. Higgins wrote. In 1951 it had the nerve to report, ‘’enquiries have been made by the Forest Department and it has been found that this deer has become totally extinct and no live specimen is now available.”
However, much to the chagrin of the Government, of Manipur, the combined efforts of E. P. Gee, a naturalist, Lt. Colonel R.W. Burton and P. D. Stracey (the then Senior Conservator of Forests, Government of Assam) in 1952-1953 succeeded in proving that Sangai was not extinct as has been falsely asserted, by the Government, of Manipur.
It is a tragic twist of fate that the Sangai has found its saviours in the International Survival Commission. Here In its natural habitat it has been hunted down indiscriminately. As a result this rare species is nearly extinct today. It is now high time that the people and the Government of Manipur realized the urgency of preserving this rare species called Rucervus eldi eldi. Should we through rank igno­rance or extreme callous­ness, allow this species to become extinct it will be a mark of shame that we will have to carry to our graves.
Biodiversity is the living gold of mankind today’s healthy biodiversity is tomorrow’s healthy generation. Let’s keep all hopes of our survival on biodiversity conservation and save biodiversity for our survival.


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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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