Sangai (Rucervus eldi eldi) is lovingly called Jagoisabi (dancing deer) by the locals. The only isolated population of Sangai resides in the Keibul Lamjao National Park, covering an area of 40 sq. km. The state Government of Manipur declared Keibul Lamjao as a National Park on 28-03-1977 for the protection of its flagship species Sangai under the provision of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Keibul Lamjao lies on the southern part of the Loktak lake (Ramsar site) which constitutes a continuous mass of phumdi occupying an area of around 26sq.km. Phumdi or floating meadow is the natural habitat of Sangai. It is a floating mass of entangled vegetation which has formed as a result of degradation and accumulation of organic debris biomass with soil particles concentrated in solid form. Sangai co-exist with wild boar and hog deer. They form harmony in the park maintaining a mutualistic relationship. The interdependence between the biotic components in an environment is very fascinating. It balances out the food web and helps in sustaining the ecosystem. Sangai is listed as endangered by the IUCN and their survival and sustenance is a big question mark if proper conservation measures are not taken up. In the past years, there is less knowledge about the relationship between Sangai and other faunal diversity. The understanding of the association of the Sangai with floral and faunal diversity is very important. By doing so the possible threat and benefits can be identified and a solution can be provided. For the effective conservation of Sangai the conservation and management of the associative faunal and floral diversity are highly required.
The park is flourished with varieties of floral and faunal vegetation. Flora includes mainly wetland vegetation as the park is covered chiefly with phumdi. Sangai, hog deer, and wild boar are remarkable and dominant faunal diversity of the park. The Hog Deer (Axis porcinus) is a small species of deer measuring 70 cm to the shoulder and weighing about 50 kg. It gets its name from the hog-like manner in which it runs, with its head hung low so that it can duck under obstacles instead of leaping over them like most other deer. The population of Sangai and hog deer is almost similar. Sangai and hog deer feed almost on the same plants but there is negligible competition for food and space as there is plenty of forage and space for them to reside. The population of wild boar is about 2500, it is the most populated animal species in the park. The wild boar (Sus scrofa) or wild pig is bristly-haired, grizzled, and blackish or brown in color and stands up to 90 cm (35 inches) tall at the shoulder. Except for old males, which are solitary, wild boars live in groups. The animals are swift, nocturnal, and omnivorous and are good swimmers. They possess sharp tusks, and, although they are normally unaggressive, they can be dangerous. Wild boar feeds on grasses and it also feeds on the snakes that reside in the park which is a threat to the other animals like Sangai and hog deer. The wild boar occasionally feeds on the young and newborn Sangai, few cases reported. Wild boar plays an important role in the reproduction of Sangai, the wild boar builds its roosting ground using dried grass and gave birth and after this, the Sangai and the hog deer will use the roosting space built by the wild boar to deliver their babies. The roosting place will give protection to the newborn deer from climate and predators. The deer depend upon the wild boar for the reproduction of their offspring, which is a very important factor in increasing the population. It is believed that the number of animals in the park is maintained by nature’s cycle like disease outbreaks and never exceeds the carrying capacity.
As the Sangai is endemic to the Keibul Lamjao National Park the establishment of a population in a new area will be helpful to combat disease outbreaks or any unwanted disasters. This will prevent loss of the entire population. To establish a new habitat outside the park understanding the relationship between the animals is crucial. The scientific data regarding the relationship between the Sangai and its associated faunal diversity is very limited. There is an urgent need for research and analysis of the relationship between the organisms for the strategic conservation of endangered species.
In order to protect and conserve Sangai its associated species and habitat, documentation and research in various forms have become a critical need of the hour. Scientific research and analysis of the collected data can be of great help in the conservation of the species and its habitat. Public awareness and education are also necessary. Informal writing like blogging or the utilization of social media platforms to connect with the present generation is the key to bringing awareness about the need to understand the relationship between the animals and protect and conserve Sangai from various threats.
1. Conservation ecology of Sangai and its habitat, WII
2. Singh, M., & Khare, N. (2018). Distribution, status and conservation of Sangai deer (Rucervus eldii eldii) in Manipur, India. Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies, 6(5), 732-737.
3. Conservation of Sangai, a success story. Forest Department of Manipur
(Contributor: Leenthoi Laishram has completed MSc. Forestry at North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology (NERIST), she is currently under Midas Touch Pro Bono Mentorship Program; she can be reached at email@example.com)