Location: 53 kilomtetres
from Imphal in Manipur.
Area: 40 sq kms
Best time to visit: October to May
Nearest Town: Moirang
Kelbul Lamjao National Park is situated 53km from Imphal on the fringes of Loktak Lake.
The only floating National Park in the World, on the Loktak Lake is the last natural habitat of "Sangai" - the dancing deer of Manipur . A glimpse of the deer in this unique wetland ecosystem is a must for any wildlife enthusiast. Other wildlife : Hog Deer, Otter and a host of water fowls and migratory birds can also be sighted during November to March. The Forest Department maintains watch towers and two rest houses within the park.
Sangai-The Dancing Deer of Manipur
An animal found only in Manipur is the Sangai. Its common English name is Manipur Brow-antlered Deer and the scientific name, Cervus eldi eldi McClelland. It lives in the marshy wetland in Keibul Lamjao. Its habitat is located in the southern parts of the Loktak Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in Eastern India. It is also one of the seven Ramsar sites of international importance. The habitat of the Sangai is now protected as the Keibul Lamjao National Park. The Sangai is the State animal of Manipur, and is projected as the social and the cultural identity of the State. In order to protect the animal from poachers, people living around the Keibul Lamjao National Park have formed local clubs and non-governmental organisations and together they form a collective body known as the Environmental Social Reformation and Sangai Protection Forum, in short called as ESRSPF. Units of the ESRSPF are spread out all across the lake area.
Keibul Lamjao consists of the unique 'phumdi' or floating marshes. Eighty per cent of the flora is submerged and the vegetation forms a 90-120 cm. thick cover on the water surface. About half a century ago, the predominant plants used to be tou (45 per cent), singut (25 per cent) and khoimom (15 per cent). 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 (about 24 per cent).
Some very 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 in the local Meitei dialect. This particular subspecies of the Thamin deer is also fondly called Manipur's dancing deer because of its delicate gait as it negotiates its way along the floating wetlands. Other species of deer seen here include the hog deer, sambar and muntjac. One of the most primitive primates, the slow loris occurs in scattered pockets on the hills. 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. The Himalayan black bear and the Malayan bear may also be seen foraging for food.
A variety of rare birds occur in Keibul Lamjao and the Loktak Lake. The avifauna consists primarily of the smaller reed-dwelling species. Waterfowl, which were unfailing winter migrants to the lake, 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 White Stork, Bamboo Partridge and Green Peafowl are also found here. Some of the species of hornbills found here include the Brownbacked Hornbill, Rufousnecked Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, the Pied Hornbill and the Great Pied Hornbill.
Meteorological data are available only for Imphal. Here, mean annual rainfall is 1220mm. Mean daily humidity is highest (81%) in August and lowest (49%) in March. Maximum and minimum temperatures are 34.4*C and 1.7*C, respectively. Frost is common in December and January (Deb, 1960).