Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park

Country/territory: India

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4iii (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 20,000 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2014 very high near favourable medium
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Loktak Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in Northeast India and plays an important role in the ecological and economic security of the region. This oval lake with a maximum length of 26 km and width of 13 km has an average depth of 2.7 m. There are 14 hills varying in size and elevation, appearing as islands, in the southern part of the lake. Prominent among them are Sendra, Ithing and Thanga islands. The site also includes Phumlen, Kharung and Ikop wetlands. The Loktak Lake basin has a direct catchment area of 98,000 ha and an indirect catchment of 715,700 ha. Of the direct catchment area 43,000 ha is under paddy cultivation, 15,000 ha under human habitation, and 40,000 ha under forests. The Loktak and other lakes in Manipur valley dominate its economy to a great extent. About three-fourth of the total population of the State lives around these lakes (Choudhury 2002). The Keibul-Lamjao National Park (4,000 ha) is home to the highly endangered Manipur Brow-antlered Deer Cervus eldi eldi, one of the three subspecies of Thamin Deer Cervus eldi. The other two subspecies are found in Myanmar and Indo-China. Keibul-Lamjao NP was created to protect this deer, locally known as Sangai. It was reported to be extinct in 1951, but a survey conducted by IUCN revealed that a few animals existed in the Park. Sangai are specially adapted to this floating habitat, with their characteristic hooves, which unlike other deer species, help the animal to walk conveniently over the floating islands. The lake is designated as a wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990. Keibul-Lamjao National Park, which forms the southern portion of Loktak Lake, is a large continuous mass of swamp with floating mats of vegetation, locally known as phumdis, covering much of its surface. Phumdis are composed of decaying vegetation, up to 1.6 m thick and 80% submerged, and can support the weight of large mammals. The vegetation comprises of Zizania latifolia, Leersia hexandra, Phragmites karka, Cepithipedium spp., Carex spp., Saccharum munja, Coix lachryma-jobi, Narenga porphyrochroma, and Polygonum perfoliatum. Within Indian limits, Zizania latifolia is found only in Loktak Lake (Choudhury 2002). There are small hillocks within Keibul-Lamjao, namely Chingjao, Pabotching and Toyaching, which provide a refuge for large mammals during wetter periods (Yadava and Varshney 1981, Scott 1989).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Loktak Lake provides refuge to thousands of birds of at least 116 species, including 21 species of waterfowl. Their numbers would easily exceed 20,000 (A4iii criteria: The site is known or thought to hold, on a regular basis, equal to or more than 20,000 waterbirds or >10,000 pairs of seabirds of one or more species). It also has records of Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis and Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, both globally threatened species. The Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus is regularly seen. So the site also qualifies A1 criteria. As detailed studies on avifauna have not been conducted, it cannot be said whether Loktak Lake fits A4i criteria (i.e. the site is known or thought to hold, on a regular basis, >1% of the biogeographic population of a congregatory water species). However, the numbers of some waterfowls run into thousands. According to Tombi Singh and Singh (1994), Loktak Lake provides refuge to thousands of birds. Due to intense hunting pressure and general disturbance, the waterfowl number has declined in recent years. Hume (1888) had recorded 57 species of birds in Loktak Lake alone. There are many old reports of Eastern Sarus Crane Grus antigone sharpii. Higgins (1934) mentions that the species is “not uncommon, residing and breeding in the swamps in the south of the valley: but it is not shot.’’ The birds were mainly found in pairs, and once a large flock of 20 to 30 individuals was seen. The Hooded Crane Grus monachus was also found in Manipur, nearly 100 years ago, but none have been seen in recent decades.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Altogether 425 species of animals (249 vertebrates and 176 invertebrates) have been identified in the lake, which is used as a breeding ground for several fish species. The total faunal diversity is likely to be higher, as many species have not been properly identified or surveyed. Besides the famous Brow-antlered Deer or Sangai, Hog Deer Axis porcinus is also found in Loktak Lake but in low numbers due to hunting pressure. Choudhury (1992) estimates a population of about 200 individuals. Other fauna of the site includes the Large Indian Civet Viverra zibetha, Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica and Common Otter Lutra lutra. A good population of Wild Boar Sus scrofa resides in this IBA, as it has no natural predator and is also safe from hunting (Choudhury 1992).

Key contributors: R. K. Ranjan Singh, C. L. Trisal and H. Tombi Singh.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park. Downloaded from on 25/06/2022.