Manipur: Birds

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Manipur: Birds

Important Bird Areas (IBA)

Important Bird Areas (IBA)

By : Dr Oinam Sunanda Devi


The nine IBAs are

i. Ango or Anko Hills (IBA criteria, A1, A2), Ukhrul District.

ii. Bunning Wildlife Sanctuary (IBA criteria, A1, A2), Tamenglong District.

iii. Dzuku Valley (IBA criteria, A1, A2), Senapati District.

iv. Jiri-Makru WLS (IBA criteria, A1) Imphal East & Tamenglong District.

v. Kailum Wildlife Sanctuary, (IBA criteria, A1, A2), Churachandpur District.

vi. Loktak Lake & Keibul Lamjao NP (IBA criteria, A1, A4iii), Bishnupur & Imphal West Districts.

vii. Shiroy Community Forest, (IBA criteria, A1, A2), Ukhrul District

viii. Yangoupokpi Lokchao WLS (IBA criteria, A1), Chandel District.

ix. Zeilad Lake Sanctuary (IBA criteria, A1), Tamenglong District.

The Loktak Lake is the largest fresh water Lake of North-Eastern India which is also a Ramsar site and the Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating National Park in the world. Simply, Ramsar sites are Important Bird Areas where more than 20,000 migratory water birds congregate every year apart from presence of globally threatened species. We are aware of the fact that the unique habitat of Loktak Lake & Keibul Lamjao National Park along with the endemic & globally threatened cervid Cervus eldi eldi locally called as Sangai are world famous but knowledge about the other IBAs and their wildlife are limited.

Due to the burgeoning human population, the forests were often cleared for human settlements illegally and as a result of rapid habitat degradation and logging activities at these IBAs, the existence of many wildlife species including birds & their specific habitats were threatened. Intense hunting pressure and general disturbances are also taking a toll on the diversity and abundance of endemic & globally threatened avian fauna at these sites and thus, some species maybe probably extinct locally before being discovered.

As most of the hill tribes of Manipur are avid hunters and they hardly spare any wildlife. All types of wild animals and birds are hunted, from large galliformes, hornbills, to deer and primates. Jhumming or shifting cultivation is also considered to be the biggest cause of the destruction of the natural forest in these sites. Even the world famous Loktak Lake ecosystem has also been changed considerably after the construction of the multipurpose hydel and irrigation project at Ithai. The natural wetland with fluctuating water level has been converted to a reservoir with more or less constant water level. Besides bringing about basic hydrological changes, this has resulted in severe problems for the lake biota and the communities traditionally dependent on it. Loktak was therefore, been placed in the Montreaux record, a list of internationally important wetlands (Ramsar Sites) that have undergone or are undergoing significant changes in their ecological character.

The Lake ecosystem is also threatened by excessive loading of silt and nutrients from various anthropogenic sources. Deforestation, shifting cultivation, uncontrolled use of fertilisers in agricultural lands, and discharge of domestic wastes, all contribute to the input of silt and nutrients into the lake which accelerate the ageing of the lake by rapid siltation and excessive biomass production.

The rich wildlife of Manipur including its birdlife was described earlier by many renowned British Ornithologists, such as A.O. Hume, way back in 1880s. If we check out the historical records of threatened birds, there were many birds recorded from Manipur earlier such as Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana, Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, White-winged Duck Cairina scutulata, Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Baikal Teal Anas formosa, Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Blyth’s Tragopan Tragopan blythii, Sarus Crane Grus antigone, Hooded Crane Grus monacha, Masked Finfoot Heliopais personata, Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola, Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler Spelaeornis longicaudatus, and Beautiful Nuthatch Sitta formosa etc as per Birdlife International 2001.

It is further stated that if proper surveys are conducted, some of these species could be found even now. The status and present distribution record of state bird of Manipur, Mrs Humes Pheasant Syrmaticus humiae, Manipur Bush Quail Perdicula manipurensis and the endangered Green Peafowl Pavo muticus needs confirmation right away as these species have decreasing population trend per IUCN 2010.

But very few studies were conducted on these Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Manipur and very little information was available about their birdlife, as a result the Birdlife International designated all the IBAs of Manipur as Data Deficient sites. It was unfortunate for us that due to remoteness and difficult terrain in addition to the prevailing law and order situations of Manipur, we are not able to continue long term studies at these IBAs. In my experience, frequent strikes and bandhs also hamper the research studies and most of the local people are not the least concern for the state’s rich biodiversity and their conservation awareness campaigns owing to the present scenario of the state. Some information were available for the Loktak Lake, Keibul Lamjao NP and the Yangoupokpi Lokchao WLS but about other IBAs, the information was very little and there is no recent studies conducted at these sites. In this regard, I strongly feel the need for immediate avifaunal surveys of all these data deficient IBAs in view of their deteriorating habitats which might still harbour many endemic and threatened avian species.

Apart from these, immediate awareness education programs on conservation of threatened birds and other such wildlife and its associated habitats must be taken up. The importance of these sites itself on the local communities for their own livelihood and survival must be addressed. The state government departments such as Forest Department and other major institutions must also provide assistance and encouragement to young local youths, research students and NGOs working in the field to carry out such biodiversity inventory and conservation works. There are also possibilities of working in collaboration with renowned conservation organizations of India such as the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai, the pioneer institution of India working in the field of avian conservation.

There are also certain conservation organizations which provide small grants to individuals for working on small research projects in these Data Deficient IBAs and protected areas namely the Rufford Small Grants Foundation (RSGF), Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), Oriental Bird Club, Mohamed Bin Zyed Species Conservation Fund, Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & Environment (ATREE), Foundation for Ecological Security, (FES) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) etc. Apart from these, some local NGOs of Manipur such as MASS, Manipur Nature Society, NECEER, Global Science Club, Generation de new image, Environmental social information and Sangai protection forum, Nongmaikhong Youth Club etc are trying very hard to save the wildlife and their natural habitats of Manipur. Such organizations must be given support and encouragement by the local people and the State Government itself. Lastly, I would like to add that working in field of wildlife conservation in the remote areas of Manipur requires lots of courage and strong will along with the support of local people. Therefore, let us work together and help restore the state’s rich biodiversity and let’s prevent it from further destruction. We have much to show the world other than just as a disturbed state situated at the Indo-Burma border.

The writer is Ornithologist & Technical Officer - Assam State Biodiversity Board

Birds of suburban Moirang town

Some interesting notes on the birds of suburban Moirang town

By : Rajkumari Ashalata Devi & Laishangbam Sanjit


Suburban areas have only recently attracted the attention of ecologists. Initially, they were regarded as environments where the impact of human interferences is quite significant. Avifauna structures of this landscape were hardly studied in the Indian subcontinent. Recent studies in such ecosystems have revealed that in spite of extreme urbanization (urbanization is always regarded as a threat to many natural habitats and species!) they retained a variety of vegetative structures and supported several wildlife species.

Recent studies carried out in the suburban areas of Moirang town, near the Loktak Lake in Manipur, NE India, between October 1999 to December 2002, have revealed some interesting findings regarding the avifauna structure of a typical suburban area. There was total absence of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and House Crow (Corvus splendens) in the studied landscape. So far, there is no reliable record of the occurrence of these two birds in Manipur. However, the WWF report on the Loktak Lake prepared by H. Tombi Singh and R.K. Shyamananda in 1994 included House sparrow (Passer domesticus) in the checklist of birds of the Loktak Lake (see also website of Delhi Bird Club: Checklist of Birds of the Loktak Lake). Allan Octavian Hume who is indisputably called the father of Indian Ornithology, in his Stray Feather Volume 11 The Birds of Manipur, Assam, Sylhet and Cachar (1888), the most authoritative account of the birds of Manipur, clearly mentioned the absence of these two suburban birds. For a better understanding, we have sampled nearly 1,000 Passer birds (we have checked the crown colour which is rufous in colour indicating that the bird is of the species- Passer montanus, dark spot near the ear-coverts also reinstate the claim that the bird is of the montanus species) and we comply with Hume in describing this bird as Passer montanus. Regarding Corvus splendens, we can say that it is not an inhabitant of Manipur. This species is what local people called Mayang Kwak. The literal meaning of Mayang is anything that is foreign to Manipur, and which comes from the western side of the state. Corvus splendens is abundantly found in the Cachar district of Assam (Cachar district of Assam is in the western side of the state of Manipur). Interestingly, the kind of crow found in Manipur is the all black one, the Corvus macrorhynchus or Jungle Crow.

Inference: The two bird species Passer domesticus and Corvus splendens are generally inhabitant of the plains, and not of the mountainous or hilly region. Since we have the two bird species Passer montanus and Corvus macrorhynchus which are akin to the hilly region, the existence of plains in Manipur is not recognized biologically or ecologically. Birds can see only a mountainous or hilly Manipur, and not the hill-and-valley divided Manipur. The small piece of land at the centre of Manipur can not be called as the valley of Manipur, it is rather the basin of the Loktak lake. What if we say that all the inhabitants of Manipur, including the Meiteis are hill people or hill tribes.

See also

Manipur: Flora & Fauna

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