Eggs hatch! Out come two little western tragopans

July 1st, 2008 - 10:27 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, July 1 (IANS) For the second successive year, five pairs of the highly endangered western tragopan laid eggs in captivity at a pheasantry in Himachal Pradesh and - to the delight of bird lovers - two of these have hatched. The eggs hatched last week at the Central Zoo Authority-funded pheasantry at Sarahan, 160 km from Shimla. Biologists used broody hens because the natural parents showed no interest in brooding, officials told IANS.

The brilliantly coloured bird is listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a compendium of species facing extinction. And that’s why the chicks are such good news.

The breeding project, started in 2004 under the guidance of John Corder of the World Pheasants Association, got a boost when the birds laid eggs for the first time in 2005. Then three of the four chicks died. There was no breeding in 2006 as none of the eggs laid in the clutches hatched.

Last year nine chicks were bred. Two of them have been sent to the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri, 25 km from Shimla, where birds, particularly those from the western Himalayas, have been housed.

Conservator (wildlife) Lalit Mohan, who championed the cause of ‘parent rearing’ of endangered species in captivity, said various facilities would be created over an area of nine hectares in the pheasantry.

Besides seven breeding pans, a veterinary hospital, quarantine room and incubators would be built.

The natural feed of the bird like barley and spinach will be grown in the pheasantry. The chicks will be parent-reared for about six months before being released in the wild.

The officials will keep track of them after their reintroduction to study their habits and migration pattern.

The western tragopan is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh and belongs to the family Phasianidae, which also includes the peafowl and the red jungle fowl.

Being a shy bird, it is rarely sighted and is found at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,600 metres in the temperate forests of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Mohan attributes the western tragopan’s downfall to habitat degradation, hunting and extensive grazing of the forest by livestock.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

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