Imphal, July 28: Manipur people including well-known environmentalist Dr. Khangembam Shamungou, have expressed urgency to conserve state bird ‘Nong-in’ by developing a park in Ukhrul district after reports of its sighting emerged from the wilderness through a photograph.

The ‘Nong-in’ is a bird with a distinct greyish brown head, red facial features, and a long tail.

The name of the bird is derived from a local tongue and has several monikers such as ‘Hume’s pheasant’ (Syrmaticus humiae) or Mrs Hume’s barred back pheasant or bar-tailed pheasant. It was declared Manipur’s state bird on March 21, 1989, and is included in Scheduled I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

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The bird usually resides near rivers with rocky hillsides abundant with scrub forests.

Dr Shamungou, a former lecturer at the prestigious DM College of Science in Manipur, has written several books on wildlife, including one on the state animal ‘Sangai’ (brow-antlered deer).

He made the appeal to develop a park for the bird after a four-member team of wildlife enthusiasts photographed the bird in the wild for the first time in Razai village, about 150 km east of state capital Imphal, on July 19.

“I went to Razai village and stayed overnight in 2010, but I couldn’t see the bird in the wild even though there are reports of sightings in Razai, Jessami and Shirui ranges in Ukhrul district,” Shamungou said. “It may also be visible in Tipaimukh and Kailam ranges in southern Manipur bordering Mizoram.”

Two days after the recent sighting, and subsequent reports in local media, photographer Oken Sansam wrote on Facebook, “I’m the first photographer in Manipur to click Hume’s Pheasant (Nong-in) in wild after AO Hume’s discovery of it in 1881. First recorded in India in Nagaland in January 2016 by photographer Rofikal Islam and second recording at the same spot by Bengaluru-based photographer Jainy Maria, this is the third time [the bird has been sighted] in this country.”

The state forest minister congratulated Oken and his team.

While the villagers of Razai were initially not aware of the bird, which once had a sizeable population, they stopped hunting after learning its significance.

“A fine of ₹10,000 has been imposed on anyone hunting the bird,” said Razai village’s church head Ishmael HS, who had once handed over a couple of these birds to the state zoological garden authority through forest officials in 2013-14.