National Geographic : 1955 Feb
that collecting natural history specimens in the Naga Hills was going to be far more diffi cult than it had seemed at a distance. The agriculture of the Nagas involves a steady shifting of cultivated areas. The vil lagers choose a patch of virgin or near-virgin forest land, cut down the trees, and burn over the undergrowth. They plant crops in the cleared area for a few years until the soil is worn out or eroded. Then they pick another spot and repeat the same process. In the Naga Hills today there is Govern ment-imposed peace between tribes; medical aid is fostering the birth rate, and population is rising. There is an increased demand for firewood and lumber for houses. As a result the forests are disappearing rapidly. Virgin Forest Is Vanishing Real, primary forest is now confined to the tops of the higher hills, from about 7,000 feet up. Many of the native animals and plants, once widespread over the land, are now con fined to small islands of vegetation on isolated hilltops. Our first problem, then, was to find a suitable spot where we could hunt specimens. The likeliest place seemed to be the highest hill in central Assam, 9,890-foot Mount Japvo, not far from Kohima. It is part of the Barail Range, whose untapped oil and coal resources may one day bring mineral riches to the State. So we planned a 2-week expedition to the top of Japvo. Its summit, I knew, had not been visited by an ornithologist since the surveyor and naturalist, Maj. Henry H. Godwin-Austen, climbed it in the 1870's. While arrangements were being made for the climb, my wife and I took a side trip to Logtak Lake, 86 miles south in the Manipur State of India.* Our object was to observe the waterfowl and other water birds of India which concentrate there, and, more especially, to see if we could find any Eld's deer (Rucervus eldii), a rare species which has been observed in the Logtak Lake area. We camped on the lake's edge in the small village of Moirang and for a week searched the marshy shores for Eld's deer, known to the Manipuris as "sangnai." We found none. My own feeling, after our brief visit, is that the last of the sangnai in this territory have now been killed off. * See "Manipur-Where Japan Struck at India," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1944.