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Manipur Attraction
( Keibul Lamjao National Park )

It is the only floating National park in the whole world and is 53 kms. from Imphal. This is the last natural habitat of the marsh-dwelling brow-antlered deer of Manipur called "Sangai". Many waterfowl and migratory birds visit the Lake during November and March. The National Park is on an island inside the lake. The lake has colourful water plants and provides facilities for boating and fishing. Eld’s deer, Thamin deer, Brow-antlered deer, Sangai Dancing deer… A whole lot of names for a single species, but that’s how it is for this unusual deer, a graceful animal found only in Manipur-India. A highly endangered species, the brow-antlered deer is found exclusively in a small area, which stretches across the extreme northeastern corner of India; Myanmar and part of Thailand. In India, this beautiful creature is found at the Keibul Lamjao National Park. Keibul Lamjao’s other claim to fame is the fact that this is one of the very few `floating’ protected areas in the world. Keibul Lamjao lies on an island on the fringes of the Loktak Lake. Gazetted a sanctuary in 1969, Keibul Lamjao officially became a national park in 1977and today stretches over an area of about 40 sq km, surrounded by marshes, hillocks, and the lake itself. A number of streams too crisscross this which, combined with extensive marshes, make the park a typical wetland. The most prominent spotted `sangai' deer had been reported extinct in 1951, but after being re-discovered, has finally become Keibul Lamjao's prime attraction. Other animals in the park include otter, civet, wild boar and hog deer, besides a number of small reed-dwelling birds.

History
The entire Loktak Lake was protected and declared a sanctuary in October 1953, mainly to save the sangai deer, which was threatened by extinction. But luckily, following the re-discovery of the deer, in July 1954, hunting was once again permitted except for a small portion at the southern tip. This area was officially notified as a sanctuary in 1966 and a decade later, on March 28, 1977, the Keibul Lamjao National Park was created. Obviously, by then no hunting was allowed at all.

Terrain
The Imphal Valley in Manipur is a highland plateau. The open plateau is pockmarked by innumerable small hillocks. Six major streams and their numerous tributaries that flow down from the hills into the central plain water the area.

Flora
Keibul Lamjao consists of the unique 'phumdi' or floating marshes. Approximately about half a century ago, the predominant plants used to be tou, singut, and khoimom. But the composition of the vegetation has undergone rapid changes and the plant cover, at present, is estimated to comprise of equal proportions of hoop Leersia hexandra and sing kambong Zizania latifolia, a protein-rich plant, often used as food. Khoimom Saccharum munja and singut Narenga porphyrochroms are found in even lower proportions.

Fauna
Some rare animals may be encountered in and around this wilderness. The star attraction, of course, is the brow-antlered deer Cervus eldi eldi, called sangai. It is fondly called Manipur’s dancing deer because of its delicate gait as it negotiates its way along the floating wetlands. The other two subspecies are found in Mynmar and China. Other species of deer seen here include the hog deer, sambar and muntjac. The hog deer has also vanished from the rest of the Manipur valley and isolated populations occur only in the park. Sambar and muntjac are found in the hills, surrounding the entire area. Assamese and stump-tailed macaques and the Hoolock gibbon are restricted mainly to the western hills. The Rhesus monkey is found ubiquitously around the park. The large Indian civet Viverra zibetha and small Indian civet Viverricula indica, common otter Lutra lutra and wild boar Sus scrofa are some of the large mammals noted in the area. Extremely rare lesser wild cats like the marbled cat and Temminck’s golden cat may be sighted occasionally and the Himalayan black bear and the Malayan bear are also be seen foraging for food.

Birdwatchers Delight
A variety of rare birds occur in Keibul Lamjao and the Loktak Lake. The avifauna consists primarily of the smaller reed-dwelling species. Waterfowl are becoming more rare because of the lack of open water surfaces. The Hooded Crane may be seen in the Manipur valley. The Black Eagle and the Shaheen Falcon are some of the raptors seen here. The Eastern Shite Stork, Bamboo Partridge and Green Peafowl are also found here. Species of hornbills found here include the Brownbacked Hornbill, Rufusnecked Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, the Pied Hornbill and the Great Pied Hornbill.

Information for Foreigners
Entry Requirements All foreigners visiting Manipur are required to obtain special Restricted Area Permits (RAPs), which are valid for entry to Keibul Lamjao National Park. Permits valid for a period of ten days are issued to groups of four or more people travelling together on a tour arranged by recognised travel agents.

Entry for Indians
Indians visiting Manipur are required to obtain an Inner Line Permit. Like the RAPs, these are also valid for visits to Keibul Lamjao.

How to Reach
The closest major town is Manipur's capital Imphal. The best way to go around Keibul Lamjao is by boat- and that too in the early morning or in the evening, when the lake's at its loveliest. The sangai, living in small herds, lie low through most of the day and come out to feed either around dawn or at dusk, which makes a circuit even more satisfying for wildlife-watchers. Within the park are observation towers offering a good view of sangai habitat. The park has several distinguishing features. Apart from the vegetation and terrain, an important highlight of the park is the Loktak lake - the largest freshwater lake in India; a large portion of which falls within the park.



 
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