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| Last Updated::08/02/2016

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Environment Story Of Manipur 3

MANIPUR’S ANIMAL DIARY : DEER

Kh. Shamungou1 and T.Gyaneshori Devi2

Manipur is bestowed with its pleasant climatic and topographical features supporting rich and unique forms of animals. Out of 22,327 sq km of state’s total area, 17418 sq km are under forest covers, which are characteristically of Himalayan type showing similar gradation from subtropical to temperate vegetation. The region is well within the Indo-Myanmar biological hotspot and it has the fauna characteristic of the Indo-Himalayan region, the Malayan type over and above its own endemic species.

Manipur Deer : Deer belong to the family Cervidae (Order Artiodactyla), a group of animal whose males bear solid antlers that shed periodically. Manipur has a legacy of pride for having been the home of four species of fascinating deer-the Manipur brow-antlered deer, hog deer, sambar deer and barking deer. The Manipur brow-antlered deeris endemic to this region.

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Manipur Brow-antlered Deer/Eld's Deer of Manipur(Males in velvet)          Photo : Shamungou

 

Manipur Brow-antlered Deer/Eld’s Deer of Manipur : The Manipur brow-antlered deer (Rucervus eldii eldii, McClleland 1842) lovingly called sangai (Sa, animal and ngai, in awaiting and looking at you) by the people of Manipur is a rare and critically endangered mammal. A rutting male (125cm) has graceful crown of ‘arc’ shaped antlers. The sangai in Manipur is taking its last refuge on the fringe of Loktak Lake (a Ramsar Site, 1990) in a 40 sq km Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP) along with hog deer (Axis porcinus), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and several birds. The important features of the KLNP are the presence of floating vegetation called phum or phumdi and three hillocks inside. The rests are waterbodies. Sangai was declared extinct in 1951, however, a small survivor of around 100 heads was discovered again in 1953 by E.P. Gee in Keibul Lamjao area and that has led to the creation of a sangai sanctuary in 1955 and later as a national park in 1977. 

Three sub-species of the Eld’s deer-the Manipur’s sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii, McClleland 1842), Burma’s (Myanmar) thamin (Rucervus eldii thamin, Thomas 1918) and Thailand’s lamang (Rucervus eldii siamensis, Lyddeker 1915) are recognized across the south and Southeast Asia. A fourth sub-species called Rucervus eldii hainanus for a population of around 100 heads now in Hainan (China), is also suggested. The Manipur race of Eld’s deer is distinguished by its well developed hairy hind pasterns and smaller curvature of antlers.

Currently, sangai is awarded as Endangered by IUCN, listed in Appendix I by CITES and included in Schedule I by WLPA.

Today, around 200 heads of sangai are facing all round threats of habitat destruction, poaching and probably a genetic disorder too and if the current progress of threats continue, it may take two or three decades at the most, this endemic species to extinct. Therefore, it is not preferable to enclose the entire small population of sangai at one place under the fragile ecological conditions and in order to reduce the risks, efforts to establish off-side populations are suggested.

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Hog Deer(Males in velvet)   Photo : Praty Lahiry

 

Hog Deer : The hog deer or kharsha in Manipuri (Axis porcinus/Hyelaphus porcinus, Zimmermann 1780) is a small hog-like deer. It is named because, the deer has long body and short legs like a hog; it runs through the bushes with head hung low and as such the deer often meets dangers. An adult male stands about 55-65cm at the shoulder and weighs around 50kg. Females are smaller in size. The stags have short antlers (30cm), the brow tine meets the main beam at an acute angle. The winter coat is dark-brown and a dark dorsal strip runs from shoulder to rump. During summer, light colour spots scatter on either side of the strip. The tail is short and white tipped and during fright run, it is held erect, showing the white of underparts.

The range of hog deer extends from Pakistan through most of the Indo-Gangetic plains of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, southern China, etc. Currently the species is evaluated as endangered by IUCN, included in Appendix I by CITES and listed in Schedule I by WLPA.

Currently, around 200 heads of hog deer are found in Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur. A remnant population of around 30-40 are resided in the Yawa Lamjao (Bishnupur district) and a group of 10-20 heads is also possible in Maibum Phumlak (Thoubal district). The status survey of the species in these places and an immediate follow-up action plan for conservation of the species would be revealing.

 

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Sambar Deer(Males without velvet)

      Photo : Praty Lahiry

 

Sambar Deer : The sambar or sajal in Manipuri (Rusa unicolor/Cervus unicolor, Kerr 1792) is the largest Indian deer. A male attends 100-150cm at the shoulder and weighs as much as 500kg. A 100cm long antlers having a single point anterior tine and the posterior beam forked with three points is good. The yellowish-brown to dark stag tends to become very dark, almost black with age. The coarse and saggy hairs in stags form mane around the neck and throat. The females are smaller and lighter in colour. The tail is relatively long for deer and generally black above with paler underside.

            The sambar deer is native to Indian subcontinent, southern China and Southeast Asia. Seven races of sambar are known to occur of which the Manipur (India) race (Rusa unicolor unicolor) is the largest. It can sustain in the wide range of habitats consisting of tropical and subtropical mixed forests and moist evergreen forests. Males are normally solitary and are very aggressive during rutting period. They are primarily live in woodlands and feed on a wide variety of vegetation-grass, foliage, fruits, barks, etc depending on the local habitat. During hot summer they like wallowing.

Recently sambar is listed as Schedule III by the WLPA and as Vulnerable by the IUCN. The distribution and status of the deer in Manipur are not perfectly known, although there are unconfirmed reports of the species being rarely found in certain pockets of Chandel, Churachandpur, Ukhrul and Tamenglong districts. No report of the species from Senapati district is available.

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Indian Muntjac/Barking Deer(Males without velvet)           Photo : Shamungou

 

 Indian Muntjac/Barking Deer : The Indian muntjac or saji-angangba in Manipuri (Muntiacus muntjak, Zimmermann 1780) is the smallest common deer in Manipur. It stands 85-135cm (without tail), 50-70cm at the shoulder and bears short 15cm antlers. Stag coat colour changes from dark-brown to yellowish-brown depending on the season. The face is dark-brown with a ‘V’ shaped black ridge between the eyes (hence, Rib-faced Deer). The antlers have anterior short tine and posterior unbranched beam. The adult males possess upper canines that curve slightly outward from the lips. During danger muntjac often produces bark-like sound, hence the common name barking deer.

     The muntjac deer has wide range of distribution throughout the south and Southeast Asia. In Manipur it covers habitats consisting of tropical and subtropical deciduous forests, scrub forests, grasslands, etc upto 3000 metres. They are omnivorous, feeding on grass, fruits, seeds, sprouts, bird’s eggs, small animals and even it shows scavenging behaviour, feeding on carrion. The deer is included in Schedule III by the WLPA and evaluated as Least Concern by the IUCN.

During the recent past the deer in Manipur is heavily pouched throughout the hills and if the trend continues, within a decade or so barking deer will become a vanishing species in the state.

Conservation Concerns : Throughout the ranges, deer are overexploited for their meat and antlers. These are valued for traditional medicine and have greater demands for trophies.

In the history of wildlife conservation in Manipur, concern for sangai protection has been addressed often more seriously than any of the wild animals. The species status ofhog deer is not inferior to that of sangai. However, no action, so far, for the in-situ or ex-situ conservation of hog deer, sambar and muntjac deer in Manipur has taken up.

Abbreviations : CITES-Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, IUCN-International Union for Conservation of Nature (World Conservation Union), WLPA-Wildlife (Protection) Act.

 

1.Chairman,                                                                                                                                                           

State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA),                                                                                 Manipur.                                                                                                                                   

Email : drshamungou@gmail.com

2. Assistant Professor                                                                                                                                  

Department of LPM (Livestock Production Management)                                                                      

C.V.Sc. & A.H, R.K. Nagar Tripura West- 799008.                                                                 

Email :devigyana2000@gmail.com