Imphal, March 21 (IANS): The Manipur government and some NGOs will start a census of the rare and endangered brow-antlered deer in their natural habitat — Keibul Lamjao National Park, 45 km from the state capital — from Thursday, an official said on Tuesday.
Deputy Conservator of Forests Arun R.S. said: “We will conduct the census from March 22 and conclude on March 28. The census will cover Loktak and other smaller lakes in the state.”
He appealed to the people not to enter the national park and create any kind of disturbances to the deer. “There will be 31 machans at vantage points from where the volunteers will view the national park for head counting.”
Environmentalists and wildlife lovers have, however, aired serious concerns, saying that such yearly headcounts are a reason for decreasing population of the brow-antlered deer.
They are of the view that this deer once thought to have become extinct are on the brink of extinction once again. The total population of the deer including fawns is less than 300 in the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
Environmentalist Dr Kh. Shamungou said: “February and March are the mating season of the deer in the national park. Entry of the officials and volunteers create panic and disturbance among the deer which in turn will affect pregnancy and births of fawns.
“The officials are conducting the census every year, whereas there should be a gap of at least three years between the headcounts. Besides, now the water grasses are high which will obstruct views of the officials and volunteers.”
There are 100 volunteers representing local clubs, NGOs, Manipur University and D.M. College of Science. They will take part in the census.
Forest officials said that some brow-antlered deer kept in zoos elsewhere had developed genetic defects since they stay on floating bio mass. The Loktak lake and zoos do not have such bio mass.
A few decades ago, forest officials had planned to translocate some of the deer to the vast wildlife sanctuaries in Assam. But, the plan was dropped as it was objected to, saying that one day Assam could claim the deer as their own.