State mulling over help from WLII for endangered Sangai

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IMPHAL,June 22:The state may seek the help of the Wild Life Institute of India (WLII), Dehra Dun, to assess the threat posed by Para grass to the exotic and endangered Sangai deer. 

The Sangai`s only habitat is the Keibul Lamjao (KL) National Park on Loktak Lake,around 45 km south of Imphal in Manipur.

The KL National Park, which has an area of 40 sq. km, was declared a national park in 1977. It floats on the 246 sq. km Loktak Lake, which lies across the Imphal (West), Thoubal and Bishnupur districts. According to the 2003 animal census, the park is home to about 180 Sangai deer. But now, experts say the food source of the deer is being slowly destroyed by Para grass.

Para grass (brachiaria mutica), also known as Buffalo grass, is a pest plant from Africa. The grass, initially grown as fodder, was found to be a pest weed that pushed out the native flora of an area unless it was grazed on by cattle.This exotic grass was planted in Manipur in the late-1960s by the state`s veterinary and animal husbandry department.

P Kumar, associate professor of life sciences at Manipur University, said at a recent seminar in Imphal that the rampant growth of para grass is destroying the food of the Sangai.

“Sangai deer live on about a dozen aquatic plants, including ishing-kambong. If the grass covers the entire park, there`ll be no food for the deer,“ he said.

Author of the book, `Endangered Manipur Brow Antlered Deer,` environmentalist Dr Kh Shamugou supported the need for monitoring Para grass on Loktak Lake before the situation went out of control though he didn`t make any specific comment on its invasion in the KL national park.

“The WLII will be roped in to verify the report and find out how much harm Para grass can do at the park,“ said L Joykumar, deputy conservator of forests (Park and Sanctuary).”I think the process is on for the same”.

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