Sunday, Mar 30, 2003
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By Our Correspondent
A census conducted in 2000 in the park showed that there were just 162 deer (54 stags, 76 hinds and 32 fawns). With reports of unbridled poaching, their population must have dropped yet again, say wildlife enthusiasts.
It is said that just six deer were sighted in 1953 when nature-lovers thought that the particular species had become almost extinct. However, it took two decades for the Government to declare the natural habitat a national park in 1972. A census conducted by the wildlife wing of the Forest Department in 1975 and 1990 showed that the Sangai population stood at 14 and 76 respectively.
The fear that this rare deer will be hunted to extinction vanished somewhat when two notorious poachers, N. Joykumar and Salam Tomba, were whisked away by insurgents in January soon after they were released on bail by a court. The insurgents set free some trapped migratory birds and warned that the poachers would be given exemplary punishment to save the deer from extinction.
People in the villages surrounding the Loktak lake (of which the Keibul national park is a part) have been, for generations, earning their livelihood by fishing and selling edible water plants. It is not possible to prevent them from entering the lake for fishing. In the guise of common fishermen, hardened poachers also enter the lake and hunt down the deer. The meat is sold at Rs.50 a kilogram. There have also been reports of some "drunken" policemen killing birds and animals in the park.
A proposal was mooted to shift some of the deer to sanctuaries in Assam where they have a better chance to multiply their population. But this was rejected on the ground that the food the deer eat floating biomass is not found in any sanctuary in any other State. In fact, when the authorities shifted some of the deer to zoos elsewhere in the State, they contracted diseases because they could not be fed floating biomass.
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