Can't the brow antlered deer be saved from extinction?

AK Chishti *

Sangai : The endemic, rare and endangered Manipur Brow-antlered deer  in February 2009
Sangai : The endemic, rare and endangered Manipur Brow-antlered deer in February 2009

This paper was presented in the Annual Seminar of the Zoological Society of Manipur held on 28th December 1975 and published in the first volume of the Journal of Zoological Society of Manipur.

The Brow Antlered Deer or Sangai as known locally is a very rare and beautiful subspecies found only in Manipur. Its antler and biological niche are really unique.

Unfortunately, however its beauty has become its own enemy. Hunters, whose passion for killing, dies hard, never spared this charming animal. Because of this, mainly and other factors like flood and draught, and deforestation partly, the Sangai is today the most unfortunate and destitute victim. Needless to emphasise, this priceless animal demands immediate attention and prompt action to rescue the few remaining, otherwise it is sure to become extinct. Only 14 Sangais are left now according to the latest survey report. Only 14 now! How is this? Can't they be saved at all from extinction? My presentation of this paper is in fact concerned with the answers to these questions.

Since time immemorial Sangai has been known to the people of this land. The name "Sangai", it seems to us, has been given after the peculiar posture it shows to the onlooker. 'Sha' means animal and 'ngai' means in waiting. The animal, that remains in waiting. Its antler is indeed note-worthy. There are stories based on this antler like, "Sangai kaibuba eigee paitukhao thadabrimm-O". Children love this story very much. It has also been the proud possession of the elders and particularly the man of position. They use the antlers beautifully fitting into a wooden or clay model of the head of the animal.

To the zoologist however, the antler is unique because of its peculiar style of setting in the head. Such mode of setting is not seen in any other type of mammal so far. The antler is set in the head at right angle to the pedicles and the curve of the brow tines is continuous with that of the beams. Antlers on the opposite sides are asymmetrical with each other. Each beam is forked terminally. In the older stags forward bend makes a distinct "L" in the beams while in the young stags the curve is more continuous like "C".

But to the hunters it is particularly for the flesh and heroic kill. None of them knows the importance and value of this animal. To them it is correct, Sangai is a game like other, deers, hares and wild animals and birds. Only 14 means to them oh! no more to be hunted further. To the encroachers why not, none should be spared, finish them, we are more important than Sangai, why should they occupy Keibul Lamjao. It should be converted into paddy field. Alas! poor Sangai how have you been pulling on and how long in such a vicious circle?

Today the home of this species is confined to only Keibul Lamjao an area of 10 sq. miles and located at the south eastern corner of the Loktak Lake. Since when they settled here is not exactly known to us both from the adaptive characters they possess, it can be well said that it must be since long years back. The habitat of this kind is really rare and curiously enough Sangai has been the only deer to occupy such a habitat.

Incidentally, the Keibul Lamjao is also the only floating Sanctuary in the world. They have perhaps chosen this area because of its tall and thick weeds without much creeper so that they can hide here permanently from the vision of predators like tiger. At the same time enough food and water are also available here. When the phumdi is flooded they have the Thangbrel-Yangbi, a long elevated area of land running from eastern to the western end of the Sanctuary in the middle part as their shelter. Keibul Lamjao thus became the safest home land of Sangai in due course.

But how long? Keibul Lamjao has become rather the paradise of the hunters. They have been taking the full advantage of this station of the animal. Penetrated deep into the heart of this area, they are caught by either shooting or trapping. Now it is no more the safest place for them; water almost all around how to run farther for life. During rainy season it is still more disadvantageous to them. When over-flooded they are brought still nearer to the villagers around. Only a few returned safely after the ordeal.

This number (14) has been perhaps the smallest so far. Though of course there had been reports of the animal facing several threats to its existence, in 1881 (as reported by one Aban Wilson) the then King declared Sangai a protected animal. Then again in 1937 the State Durbar discussed the plight of this animal and took up action to protect it.

But during the period from 1947 to '55 Sangai faced the worst threat, it was declared extinct. Fortunately some survived to be noticed again. In March 1961 the World famous naturalist E.P.Gee made a spot study of this animal and reported the presence of 100 Sangais. So, today's 14 in number is really shaky. Sangai species is thus facing the severest blow ever to its survival. (To be contd)

After the naturalist's study and advice for protection to our Govt., perhaps the Zoological Society of Manipur was the first to study the fate of Sangai and initiate the discussion on its protection. The Society has been deliberating on this since its formation on 25.12.'73. Then came the Pre-Investigation Survey Team of India and made an aerial survey of this animal in the month of April '75. Report of 14 is according to this count. Thanks to the Society and survey team the fact is now revealed. Immediate action to save the few left was only then felt so strongly that Center had granted an amount of Rs. 6.40 lacs to this effect.

Inspite of all these, practically satisfactory improvement of the fate is yet to be seen. Though no one has said that the species could not be saved at all from extinction, the recent death of three Sangais in the enclosure maintained by the Forest Office, Keibul Lamjao speaks a lot justifying the apprehension of the people in general and the academicians of Life Science in particular.

This is still the question, "can't they be saved at all from total extinction".

What is the wrong with the modus operandi of the save Sangai Scheme? As has been observed, following spots may be pointed out with a view to remove them and improve over the weaknesses.

1. For such big and vulnerable area of 10 sq. miles, the present staff of one Forest Officer and some 20 staff members, is really too small for the job. Above all they are all ill equipped.

2. Protective measures taken up so far is far below the proposed scheme

i. Only 5 choukees were so far constructed

ii. Digging of trenches were left incomplete

iii. Returning of the Thanbrel-Yangbi as mentioned above to the real owners is still to give effect with success

iv. By far the most important step to protect, i.e. the total stop of killing by any method has not been successfully taken up

v. Another very essential step educating public around the Keibul Lamjao in particular and masses in general, is completely ignored

Under these circumstances how is it possible to save this rare species of animal is every body's question with apprehension. It will always remain as a hilarious task to achieve the goal.

Naturally, therefore, to save or not is pertinent to the question of how we approach to the problem. It is not really the dearth of fund that matters, rather it is the lack of knowledge of the biological value of the species and also the lack of love of animal and responsibility, sensibility of the authority. If not what? Nevertheless, this unfortunate species, the love of ours must be saved at any cost.

It can be saved why not, let us take up the following measures immediately.

1) To know the real picture of the species population, recounting should be done as early as possible.

2) Safe enclosure (separate and modern) should be constructed inside the Keibul Lamjao area to keep them intact in their natural environment and to be inspected regularly.

3) A permanent veterinary section under a very experienced Doctor preferably specialised in the particular field should be immediately established.

4) Thangbrel-Yangbi should be immediately returned to them.

5) Trees should be planted on it for their use as shed.

6) A project should be started to study the biology of the animal.

7) Poachers should be heavily punished.

8) Patrolling by trained guards with transmitters and guns in and around the vulnerable area should be done regularly, and started immediately instead of taking up the long term measures like fencing with barbed wire and digging of trenches.

9) High observatory towers overlooking the Keibul Lamjao should be constructed at different but proper sites so that encroachers are checked.

10) Public education particularly around the village should be given about the importance of this and other rare species and also to mobilise the Save Sangai Scheme.

11) Study of wild life particularly this species and salamander shoud be included in the syllabi of the school, college and university.

12) AIR, Imphal should be used as an agent of bringing awareness and consciousness among the people.

* AK Chishti wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer was a Lecturer in Zoology at DM College of Science and he was the founder secretary of Zoological Society of Manipur. It is in the general interest that this article is published during the observance of the Wild Life Week 2015.
This article was posted on October 15, 2015.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Yubi Lakpi @Yaoshang #1: Gallery
  • Cheirao Chingkaba @Singjamei : Gallery
  • Intl Day to End Racial Discrimination
  • Listen :: Poem
  • Burglary: security emergency in Lamka
  • Career options in printing press #2
  • Vitamin C: Antioxidant in your anti-ageing
  • Clarification regarding NIA summon
  • Issues of education should be priority
  • Why outside after Class XII ?
  • NSCN-IM asks Centre for 'clarity'
  • Teinem Luira Phanit @Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • PM Narendra Modi @Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Candle Light for Pravish @Delhi: Gallery
  • RTE taunts Kamuching: Mapithel Dam
  • Please dont become slave to any holy book
  • Pravish's Parents meet HM Rajnath Singh
  • Assam Rifles celebrates Cheiraoba
  • Job requirements @SKY Hospital
  • Nursing opportunity across Europe
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Education: addressing the core issue
  • Call to amend the Army Act
  • MoUs inked to boost tourism in NE
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chingkaba #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sports @Kakwa: Gallery
  • Human right intimidated by SF: Amnesty Intl
  • Bikers rally to spread awareness on Cancer
  • TB survivor resolves to make TB-free ..
  • State Level World Kidney Day
  • Course in Comparative Literature at NEHU
  • Candle Light at DU for Pravish Chanam
  • PS issue stands as litmus test for CM
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #1 : Gallery
  • Premier League coaches train : Gallery
  • Culturals @ Republic Day #3 : Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #4
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #2
  • Prevention of cruelty to trees
  • Premier League coach train NE participant
  • GoI may sign agreement without NSCN(K)
  • Manipur celebrates New Year with gaiety
  • Zeliang denies involvement in terror funding
  • Shopping: Sajibu Nongma Panba #1: Gallery
  • Stall @Science Congress, MU #1: Gallery
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba (Meitei New Year)
  • Saving Nambul: Convergence of view
  • Job @ PR Enterprises, Khurai
  • National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities
  • Seminar on 'Conflicts in South Asia'
  • Luck matters; but not always
  • On completing one year in office
  • Spectacle distribution at Loktak Station
  • DGAR visits Manipur on his farewell visit
  • PM at Science Congress @MU #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #3: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • A tribute to Stephen Hawking
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #3
  • Effect of a Sleepless Night :: Peom
  • Psychology at MIT School of Vedic Sciences
  • So near yet so far
  • Naga CSOs walking with JCILPS
  • Vegetables grown @Thanga #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Fancy Dress Contest: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #2: Gallery
  • Truth of Life :: Poem
  • Celebration of womanhood
  • HQ IGAR (S) celebrates 15th Raising Day
  • Jet Airways for more flights for NE
  • Publicity doing good, Garbage filth continue
  • Other issue overriding education: Class XII
  • Wortam: The Rising Young Mashangva
  • Eidi Ethantani by Eyoom :: Review
  • OMCT : UA on harassment of Ranjeeta
  • Mass destruction of opium poppy cultivation
  • Career options in printing press
  • IBSD launches hi-tech facility for farmers
  • Bangalore Yaoshang - Cheiraoba Thabal
  • Quality over quantity
  • What will the PM have to say ?
  • Zeliang gets fresh summon from NIA
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #4 : Gallery
  • Nengneingah, Lungkhambou :: eMing
  • Yaoshang Water & color #2: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #2
  • BJP led Govt, not flunk in first year
  • Demand handing of Pravish case to CBI
  • PDA Govt claims false credit: NPF
  • Feminism & Path to Women's Liberation
  • Word of caution from Ibobi: BJP to listen
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #4 : Gallery
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #1
  • Nigol :: Poem
  • List of Portfolios : Nagaland Govt
  • Clarify: Report of Zeliang summoned by NIA
  • Academic Programs offered by PHFI
  • Cong speaks: Changes expected in future
  • One year under the BJP: Significant but..
  • Students @ Class X Exam #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khongman: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #1
  • Cry Of A Dying River...21 :: Peom
  • Manipur-Nagaland border disputes
  • Not a word on beauty on Women's Day
  • Women Religious Tour reaches New Delhi
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira- Nari Puraskar Award: Gallery
  • Human Rights Defender intimidated by Army
  • Rooftop Solar Power Plants: Gallery
  • Home stay for nature tourism in Manipur
  • Moodle: A learning management system
  • You can't stop small newspapers ...
  • BJP show in NE State: The backroom boys
  • Moldhin Chan: A Thado-Kuki Folktale #2
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Mapithel Dam, Thoubal River & Tumukhong
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Time for "Nokphade" to go global
  • Campaign on International Women's Day
  • War between Left & Right has begun
  • Poppy plantation, destruction & missing link
  • Yaoshang Halankar #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #1: Gallery
  • Harassment of Ranjeeta (HRA) by Army
  • Women's positions need to change
  • The Weeds :: Poem
  • We now know gold was created in space
  • Issues of women's rights should be priority
  • Protection of paddy land Act
  • Thabal Chongba @Khurai : Gallery
  • Bor-keina race @Yaoshang Fest : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #1: Gallery
  • Tanushree @Elecrama Startup Award: Vote
  • Indian Science Congress in MU: Act East?
  • Fulbright 'pathways' for college leaving class
  • Job @ St. Stone Medical Devices
  • Army jawan martyred in Bongjai IED blast
  • National Integration Tour for Women
  • AR conduct Yaoshang sport festival
  • Condemns rising vendetta politics in NE
  • Yaoshang Sport - Marathon #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #2: Gallery
  • NERIST Director post vacant since 2014
  • Dynamic Startup 3.0 at MIMS, MU
  • NDPP Legislature 1st Meeting at Kohima
  • 8th Theatre Olympics at Guwahati
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #1: Gallery
  • Sentinel Cup Equestrian #5 : Gallery
  • Translating inclusion into seclusion is..
  • Condemns land acquisition of muslim
  • News erroneously portraying Zeliang
  • Report: Shillong Lajong vs East Bengal
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #1: Gallery
  • LGBTQ Yaoshang Sports Meet #1 : Gallery
  • M. Shenbangpu : Akademi Award 2014
  • Tribe: A concept in a state of crisis
  • Neiphiu's NDPP-BJP alliance stakes claim
  • Digital footprints: Blueprints for detection
  • Rio refutes news about 'Naga Peace'
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang with Governor : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Mei Thaba : Gallery
  • Saroi Khangba #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira: Highest Civilian Honour
  • Rejoinder to "MCPCR in dire straits"
  • Stop harassment of Urikhimbham
  • Sadar Hills District Demand :: Timeline
  • 8th AMWJU Sports Meet : Gallery
  • March Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #2 : Gallery
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #3 : Gallery
  • Cultural @ Republic Day #2 : Gallery
  • Festival of Colours to Sports Festival
  • Food Processing Training @Oinam : Gallery
  • Loree Kaju Luita Phanit #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #1 : Gallery
  • Lui-Ngai-ni Token Celebration at Chadong
  • Students @ Class X Exam #1 : Gallery
  • AoNna tEnaba :: Seireng
  • Thanga Keithel : Gallery
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #5: Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic