Shrinking wetlands killing Manipuri Ponies

Polo player Ranjan, who is also the caretaker of a breeding farm in Manipur, is a worried man. He worries for the Manipuri ponies, an endangered species now, as there isn’t enough to feed them. Modern polo has roots in Manipur. It has been derived from an indigenous sport called Sagol Kangjei. The sport originally employed ponies indigenous to Manipur. However, the breed is now endangered. Their numbers are dwindling, their habitat is shrinking and the ponies are fast losing the battle for survival.
“There are no fields left where the ponies can graze. The grazing fields have been taken over by humans. There is a severe shortage of food and they are eating garbage. Their shrinking habitat is sending them to the streets,” said Ranjan, who is associated with a farm run by the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association.
Like Ranjan, Longchum Bala Devi is also concerned about the future of the species. “We revere the ponies. It’s sad to see them dying. They are endangered and it’s time the Government made efforts to save them,” Longchum Bala Devi, Imphal resident, told NDTV outside the Horse temple – the abode of Lord Marjing. At least 30 ponies have died over the last year. Their population has nosedived from about 1,900 in 2003 to less than 600 now, according to records available with the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association. “Earlier, we had more than 500 wetlands in Imphal valley. Now the wetlands have been replaced by Government offices, schools and other institutions,” said N Tombiraj, pony expert from Imphal. Polo clubs in Manipur have also gone down from 60 to 15 in the last decade. There are hardly any tournaments and players no longer stars. But there is still some hope — the Manipur Pony Policy.
“The Government of India’s pony research centre took eight ponies and established an artificial insemination centre where vets will be trained. We don’t want cross breeding. The pony policy is for conserving the pure Manipuri breed,” said Dr Ng Ibotombi Singh, the Joint Director (Administration), Veterinary Department, Imphal. NDTV

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