Rare Botanical Gem: Critically Endangered Plant Species Discovered in Manipur

Rare Botanical Gem: Critically Endangered Plant Species Discovered in Manipur

For the first time, a plant classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has been discovered in Manipur’s Tamenglong district. The Saurauia Punduana plant was identified during a recent Rapid Biodiversity Assessment (RBA) field survey conducted between April 25 and May 1, 2023.

Principal investigator RK Birjit Singh, overseeing the Weeklong RBA field survey, reported, “We’ve recorded Saurauia Punduana, which has no local name, as a critically endangered species for the first time in our recent survey.” The survey covered a 1.8km transect within the Longku forest of Dailing village, located 157 km west of Imphal in Tamenglong district.

Saurauia Punduana’s flowers transition from white to pink upon maturity, with pink ovate to obovate petals curled at the tip. Its spherical shining white fruits are utilized in veterinary medicine, and the species is native to the region from Bhutan to Southeastern Tibet.

While the plant is still present in the area, its numbers are dwindling, as noted by Kachintou Pamei of Dailong village, who referred to the plant locally as Anoibang.

The survey, conducted in collaboration between Mangolnganbi College, Ningthoukhong, Manipur, and the Corbett Foundation, Mumbai, revealed the biodiversity of the Longku forest. The comprehensive report, spanning 35 pages, outlined the discovery of 186 plant species from 82 families, including 29 ethnomedicinal plants commonly used by the Rongmei tribes of Dailong village.

Of the 186 plants, 86 were tree species, 27 were shrub species, and 73 were herb species. Additionally, the survey recorded 103 avian species (100 resident and three migratory) belonging to 34 families, with three vulnerable and seven near-threatened species, including two endemics, according to Birdlife International and the IUCN Red List.

The report also documented 82 species of butterflies, including two rare species, White Dragon tail Lamproptera curious and Green Dragon tail Lamproptera meges. Notably, the survey identified highly endemic reptile species such as Cherrapunji Keelback hebius xenura, marking the first-time documentation of this species in the state, along with flying lizard Draco species and Lepidoptera species.

While the report acknowledged the incomplete checklist due to limited time and resources, it emphasized the uniqueness of Dailong village, deserving recognition as one of Manipur’s key Biodiversity Heritage Sites.