Manipur, the northeastern state of India is known for richness in bio-diversity and diversified wildlife species.
Home to several primates and big cats, Manipur is also the residence of Sangai, (scientifically termed Rucervus eldii), one of the endangered deer species in the world.
It has been marked as an ‘Endangered’ Species in Schedule-1 of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Also known as the Dancing Deer of Manipur or the Brow-Antlered Deer, Sangai is an unique antler. A medium-sized deer, the males of these antlers measure a height of 115-130 cm. While, females basically measure a height of 90-100 cm. Males weigh 90-125 kg, while females weigh 60-80 kg.
One of the endangered deer species in the world, it is now available only in Keibul Lamjao National Park of Manipur.
Located in the South-Eastern part of the Loktak Lake, Keibul Lamjao is the largest natural fresh water lake in North-East India.
The floating biomass of vegetations, which forms meadows (a piece of grassland), locally called ‘Phumdi’ is the major reason for the habitat of Sangai.
But, the steadily degenerating habitat of these meadows due to continuous flood and man-made reservoir. The water quality consumed from these reservoirs are gradually degrading due to pollution.
Besides, other threats that affect it’s habitat deals with diseases – poaching, inbreeding depression, among others.
According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Sangai was believed to be almost extinct by 1950, in 1953, six individuals were spotted at the National Park. Since then, the State of Manipur has protected the species with some key initiatives.
WWF-India has earlier conducted meetings with Manipur Forest department and the Wildlife Institute of India, and sent delegations to Keibul Lamjao National Park for the ground study regarding the conservational scenario of Sangai.
Based on the assessment, WWF-India made certain recommendations to the Govt. of Manipur for conservation of the Sangai – including shifting some animals to a second home.
Meanwhile, according to the Forest Department of Manipur, the first census of its habitat were conducted in 1975, that counted to only 14 heads.
The Forest Department took initiative in 1975 and notified Keibul Lamjao National Park in 1977. With intensive in-situ conservation efforts by the Department, population of Sangai has grown to a larger extent. As per 2016 ground census, the population of Sangai has reached to 260.