Sangai Deer

The Sangai deer is a unique deer species found only in Manipur, India that too in Keibul Lamjao National Park over the floating biomass locally called phumdi in the southeastern part of Loktak Lake. This endemic deer is critical and was almost extinct. With a lot of effort, this deer has made some comeback in the wild. Lets understand better about this deer and its importance. 


The Sangai deer, also known as the Manipur brow-antlered deer, is a unique and rare subspecies of deer found only in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. It is believed to have originated from a common ancestor of the brow-antlered deer family, which is thought to have existed in the region during the Pleistocene epoch, around 12,000 years ago.

The Sangai deer is closely related to the Brow-antlered deer, which is found in the neighbouring region of Myanmar. 

Distribution and Population in India

The Sangai deer, also known as the Manipur brow-antlered deer, is found only in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. Its distribution is limited to the floating biomass in the marshy wetlands, locally known as ‘Phumdis’, of the Loktak Lake in the state. The Sangai is an endangered species and is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

The population of Sangai deer has been severely threatened due to habitat loss, hunting, and poaching. In the 1950s, the population of the Sangai deer was estimated to be around 600-700 individuals. However, by the 1970s, the population had declined to less than 100 individuals due to extensive hunting and habitat loss. The Government of India and the State Government of Manipur took several conservation measures, including the establishment of the Keibul Lamjao National Park in 1977, to protect and conserve the Sangai deer.



The Sangai deer, also known as the Manipur brow-antlered deer, is a medium-sized deer that is unique in appearance and behaviour. The Sangai deer is a slender and graceful deer, with long legs and a thin neck. They have a height of around 90-100 cm at the shoulder and can weigh between 70 to 120 kg. The Sangai deer has a striking appearance, with a dark brown coat, white underparts, and a distinct white patch on the throat. The males are distinguished by their impressive antlers, which can grow up to 1 metre in length and have multiple tines. In contrast, the females have much shorter and less branched antlers or may lack them entirely.


The Sangai deer is a social animal and is usually found in small herds of 2-20 individuals. They are active during the day and feed on a variety of plants, including grasses, leaves, and herbs. The breeding season for Sangai deer is from November to January, and females give birth to a single fawn after a gestation period of around 8 months. The fawns are born with spots on their fur, which gradually disappear as they grow older. The fawns stay with their mothers until they reach adulthood, which is around 2 years old.

Food Habits

The Sangai deer is primarily found in the marshy wetlands of the Loktak Lake in Manipur, where they feed on the vegetation growing on the floating biomass called “Phumdis.” They are known to feed on a wide variety of plants, including grasses, sedges, and herbs. Sangai deer have also been observed feeding on aquatic plants, such as water lilies and lotus, and can swim and dive to access their food.


Sangai deer require a specific type of wetland habitat to survive. They are found in marshy, floating meadows known as phumdis, which are created by the accumulation of vegetation and organic matter in water bodies. These floating meadows provide food and shelter for the deer, as well as protection from predators.

Vulnerable Species

The Sangai deer, also known as the Manipur brow-antlered deer, was listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 1996. This means that the species is at high risk of extinction in the wild.

The Sangai deer is vulnerable due to several factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and hunting, and the effects of climate change. The marshy wetlands of Loktak Lake, which is the only habitat of the Sangai deer, have been impacted by human activities such as agriculture, infrastructure development, and hydroelectric projects. This has led to the destruction and fragmentation of the deer’s habitat, making them more vulnerable to poaching and hunting.

Poaching and hunting of the Sangai deer for its meat and antlers has been a significant threat to its survival. The antlers of the male deer are highly valued for their medicinal properties in traditional Chinese medicine, which has created a demand for them in illegal wildlife trade.

Climate change is another factor that is affecting the habitat and survival of the Sangai deer. The changing weather patterns have resulted in changes in the vegetation and food availability in the wetlands, which can negatively impact the deer’s population.

Protected Areas

The Sangai deer, also known as the Manipur brow-antlered deer, is found only in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. The state government of Manipur and the Indian government have taken several measures to protect the Sangai deer and conserve its habitat.

The Keibul Lamjao National Park, located in the Bishnupur district of Manipur, is the only floating national park in the world and is the primary protected area for the Sangai deer. The park was established in 1977 with the specific aim of conserving the Sangai deer and its habitat. The park covers an area of approximately 40 square kilometers and consists of marshy wetlands, floating biomass, and open water bodies. The Sangai deer lives on the floating biomass, locally known as ‘Phumdis,’ which provides a unique habitat and food source.

Apart from the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the Sangai deer is also found in other protected areas in Manipur, including the Yangoupokpi-Lokchao Wildlife Sanctuary, Thangjing Wildlife Sanctuary, and Dzukou Valley. These protected areas provide additional habitat and protection for the Sangai deer.

Conservation efforts in these protected areas have been successful in increasing the population of the Sangai deer. According to a census conducted in 2016, the population of the Sangai deer in the Keibul Lamjao National Park was estimated to be around 260 individuals, which is a significant increase from the population estimates in the past. However, continued conservation efforts are necessary to ensure the survival of this unique and endangered subspecies of deer.

Conservation of the Species

Protecting and conserving their natural habitats is one of the most effective ways to ensure the survival of these species. This can be achieved through the creation and management of protected areas, such as national parks and wildlife reserves, and the restoration of degraded habitats. 

  • Illegal hunting and poaching of these species is a major threat to their survival. Effective anti-poaching measures, such as increased patrols, community-based monitoring programs, and strong enforcement of wildlife laws, can help to reduce this threat. 
  • Raising public awareness about the importance of these species and their conservation can help to reduce the demand for their products, such as fur and body parts, and reduce human-wildlife conflict. 
  • Education and awareness programs aimed at local communities and hunters can also help to reduce the illegal hunting of these species. 
  • Gathering more information about these species, including their population sizes, distribution, and ecological needs can help to inform conservation efforts and improve our understanding of their conservation status. 
  • In some cases, conservation breeding programs may be necessary to support the recovery of populations that are at risk of extinction. This involves breeding individuals in captivity and then releasing them back into the wild, once sufficient populations have been established.


In conclusion, the Sangai deer play important roles in the ecosystems. However, these species are facing various threats to their survival, including habitat loss, illegal hunting, and human-wildlife conflict. To protect and conserve these species, a multi-faceted approach is needed, including habitat conservation, anti-poaching measures, education and awareness, research and monitoring, and conservation breeding. These solutions are not mutually exclusive and often need to be implemented in combination to effectively protect and conserve these species. Conservation organisations, governments, and local communities must work together to develop and implement effective conservation strategies to ensure the survival of these phenomenal species

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