Keibul Lamjao National Park
- The north-eastern State of Manipur is home to several species of deer.
- The most significant among them is the brow-antlered deer, now found only in Keibul Lamjao National Park.
- Spread across 40 sq.km., the Park is said to be the only floating national park in the world. In the 1950s, it was believed that the brow-antlered deer had become extinct in the country.
- However, it was subsequently re-discovered in Manipur. Sadly though, by 1975 only a dozen or so animals remained, and that too on a floating marsh (called phumdis) in Manipur’s Loktak Lake.
- Based on this, the marshland located on the southern end of the Lake was marked and named Keibul Lamjao National Park.
- Though the exact number of deer in the Park today is not known, the number of deer is assumed to be at least a hundred today. And, the animals here are faced with several threats to their habitat and themselves.
BROW-ANTLERED DEER FACTS
• HOW DO THEY LOOK?
- A medium-sized mammal, the brow-antlered deer gets its name from the fact that its antlers somewhat appear to emerge from its eyebrows. Marked by a small tail, the animal’s coat is a dark reddish brown during winter months and it becomes a much lighter shade in summer.
• WHERE ARE THEY FOUND?
- Native to Cambodia, China, India, Laos and Myanmar, these animals were earlier spread widely across habitats in south and south-east Asia. However, their habitats have today become very localised to small areas in their earlier range. In fact, it is possible that they have become extinct in Thailand and Viet Nam.
- The deer’s habitat has varied from scrubland and grassland to dry forests and marshland, depending on the country they’re found in. In India, these animals are found only in Manipur’s famed Loktak lake, in a marshland located within the boundaries of Keibul Lamjao National Park.
• WHAT DO THEY FEED ON?
- The brow-antlered deer usually consumes grass, but depending on its surrounding, it may also feed on fallen fruits and flowers in the area. Apparently, the species can go without water for many days.
- While globally habitat loss has been a grave concern in the conservation of this deer, hunting is an additional threat in Manipur. While the habitats have been encroached for grazing, cultivation, and fish farming, the animals are highly threatened by a hydro-electric project in the lake.
- This is affecting the ecology of the phumdis and could eventually have a bearing on the animals themselves. Also, as with any species confined to just a small area and without greater genetic diversity, it is at risk from disease contracted through domestic livestock or any other factors.
DID YOU KNOW?
• The brow-antlered deer is known by several other names such as dancing deer, Eld’s deer, sangai and thamin.
• It is believed that the dancing deer got its name due its delicate hopping while moving between the phumdis.
• It is the State animal of Manipur.
• The deer population is said to migrate from phumdis to nearby island hillocks when their habitat gets flooded.