By Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba
Ever increasing encroachment and human habitation on natural habitat of ponies, in the state of Manipur, which gave polo to the world currently faces “critical endangerment” with its number dwindling at an alarming rate.
Reports from State Veterinary department put the number of ponies 1893 in 2003 to 1218 in 2007 to little over 1000 in 2012 to an approximate 750 this year.
However, a random and voluntary survey conducted by the Manipur Polo Society supported by Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association and multiple other polo clubs in 2014 revealed there was less than 300 ponies surviving at that time.
Secretary N Ibungochoubi of Manipur Pony Society, interacting with Pratidin Time, said despiye the matter being “extremely serious” the satus of Manipur ponies have not yet been declared as “critically endangered” despite existing norms requires that animals with a population less than 2000 are to be considered as “critically endangered” while those below 10,000 are to be considered as endangered.
Manipur Ponies, believed to descendants of Asian wild horse, is one of the five horse breed in the country that are recognized by the GoI but still remains neglected with just one farm measuring around 9 acres at Lamphelpat, at the foothills of Imphal West district, being allotted for preservation.
International polo players of the state, members of Polo Association unanimously agrees that the main reason of dwindling reason is the rapid encroachment of wetlands which are natural habitats of ponies, thereby forcing the ponies to come outside of its habitat. This leads to “road accidents, food poisoning and consumption of indigestible and garbage wastes including plastics from dumping grounds” said Ibungochoubi adding such consumption leads to “Colik” a fatal disease which affect the horses.
“The ratio of death rate and birth rate is highly unbalanced with death rate being far higher than its birth rate as horses gives birth once a year only” said the polo enthusiast.
Ibungochoubi reminded that Imphal valley is a lacustrine valley which provides a natural bio-diversity which is favourable for breeding ponies. Unfortunately, unplanned construction and illegal encroachment have severely destroyed this natural gift leading to the diminishing of the ponies.
International polo player Kake Meitei said if instant measures are not taken up, the possibility of total extinction within a decade is for certain and that “it is very hurtful to see the dwindling population of ponies but helpless to preserve it due to lack of government support and indifference of people who privately owns horses.”
“We are the only people in the world who worship ponies from mythical times and highly revered the horses in the bygone eras as it protected the small kingdom of Manipur in their consistent battles with the gigantic Myanmar” ex-President of Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association N Tombi Raj said.
Given the grim situation faced by the ponies, the government in November, 2016, have formulated the “Policy on Conservation of Manipuri Pony” but actual works are yet to begin despite almost three years of its introduction.