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Manipur plans to translocate critically-endangered Sangai

PTI 16 Jun 2015, 11:04:54 IST

Kolkata:  The critically-endangered species of brow-antlered deer 'Sangai', which is found only on a floating biomass on Manipur's Loktak lake, will soon be provided a second home to save it from extinction.

The Manipur Forest Department plans to translocate a section of the rare species of the endemic deer to Pumlen Pat, which is close to its existing habitat in Loktak.

Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP), situated inside the lake, is the only remaining natural habitat of 'Sangai' which was once found across the Manipur valley.

Spread across an area of around 40 sq km, KNLP is known around the world for its unique composition as it is made up of biomass vegetation which floats on the surface of the lake.

"Our objective is to have another set of population of the deer. We have identified Pumlen for the translocation as it is also a 'phumdi' (floating biomass) and also has small hillocks for shelter," Arun R S, state deputy conservator of forest (park and sanctuary), told PTI from Imphal.

He said that their proposal would be ready this year and within the next 2-3 years they would start the process of translocating their state animal.

The big task before them is to acquire land for the project as the wetland is encroached by fisherfolk and local villagers.

Forest Department officials say they will need an area of around 60 sq km to make the project viable.

To make the future habitat of Sangai safe, they will need to relocate a number of local people, so that the animal is not threatened by poaching or loss of food.  The existing habitat of Sangai is also under threat due to flooding and hydrological changes in the ecosystem as the water level in the Loktak lake is kept at a higher level for NHPC's hydro-power project.

Due to conservation efforts, the population of the rare deer has increased over the years - from less than 100 in 2008 to 204 in 2013.

To begin with, the Forest Department will first transfer the endangered species of hog deer, also found on the marshy grasslands of KLNP.

“Once that is done, we will gradually move small populations of Sangai. The entire process would take around ten years as we will have to be very cautious. The population of Sangai is small and we cannot afford any risk. We will also have to see that we maintain the genetic diversity of the stock,” the forest officer said.

KNLP is located in Bishnupur district and is around 53 km from state capital Imphal.

Ecologists have, however, disapproved of the idea warning that the translocation will not be a swift process.  “That area is getting degraded ecologically and there is also the problem of encroachment. Where is the space for Sangai? There are eco-system constraints in this project,” eminent environmentalist R K Ranjan said.

R K Birjit Singh of the Imphal-based Centre for Conservation of Nature and Cultivation of Science said the deer would find it hard to adopt to new environment.