State Animal Sangai
Sangai: Manipur State Animal
The Manipur Brow-antlered deer, Rucervus eldii eldii, lovingly called Sangai (animal awaiting and looking at you) by the people of Manipur is the flagship Manipur State Animal (ref. Manipur State Govt. notification dated the 21st march,1989 Notification ).
The important reasons are:
1. Sangai’s vernacular name:
The name Sangai was coined from the peculiar posture and behaviour of the deer while running. The deer, particularly the males, by nature, even during fright-fight run stops occasionally and look back as if he is waiting for his spouse or someone else and hence the name – Sangai (Sa, animal and ngai, in awaiting and looking at you).
The Sangai is found nowhere in the world but in Manipur. The 40 sq km area of the floating morass known as phumdi in the Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP), Manipur, is the only home of this vanishing deer.
3. Cultural Heritage:
Sangai is a glittering gem in the rich cultural heritage of Kangleipak (Manipur). It is said that a legendary hero Kadeng Thangjahanba of Moirang once captured a gravid Sangai from Torbung Lamjao for a loving gift to his beloved Tonu Laijinglembi. But as ill luck would have it, he found his beloved to be at the palace of the king as his spouse and, as such, all his hopes were shattered. In desperation, the hero released the deer free in the wild of Keibul Lamjao and from that time onwards the place became the home of Sangai.
4. Royal boat and Sangai:
In a folklore of Kangleipak, a prince called Pudangkoi ofLuwang clan had, by the grace of a divine entity, transformed himself into a deer which has later on called Sangai. Further, there were references of Sangai head with crown of antlers, being decorated on the head of royal boat called Hiyang Hiren.
5. IUCN Status:
Sangai is Critically Endangered. Today, the deer has so far thrown up a gloomy population of under 100 heads in the wild of KLNP. Their existence is vulnerable ecologically, and in the event of a political expediency or a natural calamity, their last abode along with the remnant and isolated population could be destroyed or reduced both of them to a miserable condition beyond revival.
1. Envis Centre Manipur thanks to Dr. KH. Shamungou(Rtd. Reader & Head, Department of Zoology, D.M. College of Science, Manipur) for his valuable technical contribution in this article.
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