Climate change and predator : Any link?
Trigger pulled by a predator (climate change and its effect in Manipur)

HK Hupminthang Simte *

Years: Late 2018 mid 2019
Months: October and through the winter of 2018

During the above period a spate of unusual nocturnal 'incidents' occurred in my district of Churachandpur! People were petrified as the blood-curdling reports were flashed in the local dailies! People became vigilant! They took to all-night vigils, even armed, and even cameras ready!

But the mystery and fear deepened with the nocturnal predator leaving carcasses ...almost right under the noses of the vigilant neighbourhood but leaving no traces!

A handful of unconfirmed sightings added to the palpable fear, excitement and awe as the victim's carcass was found in compounds with high walls ... that no human could scale easily... especially with a vigilant neighbourhood just waiting for any alarm!

To add to the macabre mystery the victim always some livestock - seemed to just surrender to the predator without alarm or struggle... even while getting its entrails ripped out and its blood sucked dry!

Out came many theories! Each one more weird and ghoulish than the other! There arose whispers about satanic worshippers and their bloodthirsty practices! Myths our forefathers passed on to our parents came alive once again... all in dreaded whispers!

Especially as nothing was ever 'caught'... though the 'evidence' of the blood-drained victim-carcass was there for all to see! Blood-chilling.

Every 'evidence' was quite similar.

Most often a dog, goat, pig, chicken/rooster or a duck would be found at the scene of the incident with its entrails out and all its blood drained out if sucked dry by some 'creature of the dark'.

The 'victim' the 'evidence' was always some domesticated animal that did not raise any alarm....did not even struggle as its blood was being sucked dry! Were they under some spell that they just gave up to the predator?

No...the macabre 'incidents' did not take place in the jungle or some long abandoned habitation or broken-down building...or anything lonely and remote! It took place in the safe environments of a neighbourhood a dog chained in the master's compound or verandah! The blood-drained goat, pig or chicken still in its enclosure, pen or coop! It was blood-chillingly mysterious!

Thus, long forgotten hill-myths of 'keimi' ...the feared tiger-man surfaced ... fuelled by reports of seeing something half-man-half-creature! It brought awe and fear in the hearts us hill-folks. The Chupacabra of legends far beyond our borders did the rounds.

Within a few days of the reports surfacing Churachandpur District Administration quickly sought the help of its Veterinary Department. They were unable to confirm anything because of rumours flying with each weird incident taking place.

Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Forensic expert, Dehradun came and investigated in a scientific manner placing a battery of cameras and sensors in likely places. Based on pug and bite marks, they concluded wolves (canine) or wild cats/civets (feline species) were the likely predator(s). The local people were not fully convinced.

Then the 'incidents' seemed go away from Churachandpur as suddenly as it had come... till it briefly surfaced in Kakching, then Kangpokpi and to the border of Mizoram.

A year plus later and in summing up all these events and theories, one can conclude that there are more questions unanswered than answered!


Now, coolly, the questions that can come up is/was: Was Churachandpur's / Manipur's brief encounter with the 'unknown' predator a small narrative in the migration of some threatened wild animals seeking a safer and freer environment to migrate to?

Was, and is the situation aggravated by human actions like war, conflict, mass movement of refugees (e.g. the Rohingya) drifting to Bangladesh.

Pertinently, is it the loss of habitation by wild animals due to alarming rise in population due to the above movements that threaten their traditional environment? Or could it be the rise in sea level due to global warming that sets off a chain of movements that affect the wild animals?

All these factors play a deeper and bigger role in the migration of animals and could have led to the unusual events that took place recently in our state.

As one of the participants in a recent International Convention on Environment and Climate Change in Mizoram University one is led to think that the defining/determining factors which led to the unusual 'Predator' events in Churachandpur, Manipur, in late 2018 could, today, be attributed to man-made climate change.

Migration of wild animals, especially of the Keystone Species leads to the loss of habitation and so must be accompanied by a search for a safer haven (s). Where forest cover is high (like in Northeast India, say in Mizoram and our state of Manipur) it is possible that packs of feline and canine animals migrate towards an area of potential food sources.

Add to this the mass movement of humans towards Bangladesh, then Manipur like my District of Churachandpur, might have cornered even 'invited' - all the animals towards an extraction point!

Also, Mizoram as a peaceful area having the highest percentage of forest cover in India, has more potential in harbouring all the endangered wild animals, and thus, the migration could have been towards this state!

This is also to remind ourselves that our State of Manipur is also one of the potential states in our country that would be able to harbour and provide threatened animals with food sources (i.e. including domesticated animals and livestock).

Lastly, based on the different bite marks and pug marks of wolf and capturing of small wild cats, civet, etc., these could add to the facts that the feline and canine species took part in slaughtering our domesticated animals, either in small packs or loners, to survive the scarcity of potential prey in the forests while migrating to a safe haven.

* HK Hupminthang Simte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Member of DEAC, DEIAA , Churachandpur, Manipur
This article was posted on March 19, 2020 .

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