| Ponies at the temporary sanctuary at Lamphelpat in Imphal West. Telegraph picture |
Imphal, July 20: The Manipur pony has found a temporary home at Imphal valley, raising hopes for an increase in its dwindling population.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has accepted a request from the Manipuri Pony Society, an NGO, polo clubs and owners and provided 380 acres of swampy land — reserved to construct the National Institute of Technology at Lamphelpat in Imphal West — as a temporary shelter for the ponies.
“The chief minister agreed to our request to use the plot as a temporary sanctuary for ponies. We will bring all the ponies that do not have grazing grounds and release them here until the government provides a permanent sanctuary. Owners can also bring their ponies here,” N. Ibungochoubi, the secretary of the society, said.
Clubs, the society and players are looking after the temporary site.
The release of the ponies at their new habitat began last week and today the number rose to 155.
There are four polo tournaments every year in Manipur and nearly 40 polo clubs.
The government plans to set up a permanent pony sanctuary at Heingang and Khundrakpam at the foothills of Marjing in Imphal East, as part of its efforts to preserve the species.
The society urged the state government to conduct a fresh pony census and also complete setting up of the permanent sanctuary.
Once owned by every household, the pony population has dwindled to nearly 400 today, according to the society. A survey conducted by the state veterinary department counted 1,218 ponies in Manipur.
The proposed sanctuary will be a second home for the ponies.
Another home — a pony-breeding farm managed by the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association — shelters nearly 100 ponies at its farm near the temporary sanctuary.
Ibungochoubi said there was a threat to the survival of the pony as grazing grounds were vanishing.
As the owners could not find grazing grounds, they simply let the ponies loose on the streets.
The ponies, left to roam, were forced to eat whatever they found, including plastics, which poisoned them.
“The death rate is alarming and higher than the rate of foaling. There is a report of the death of 40 ponies in the past year because of road accidents and poisoning. The temporary site will be a great relief. We fear that some of the ponies at the site may die because of poisonous food consumed earlier,” Ibungochoubi said.
If the population of any breed is below 2,000, it is considered endangered.
If the population of females that can foal is less than 300, the breed is considered critically endangered.
“Lamphelpat has enough food for ponies and we don’t need to provide their food. It has also been home to ponies since ancient times,” S. Bimol, the captain of India’s Polo team-B, said.