Pheasant population declining in the Himalayas: Conservationist

November 4th, 2008 - 12:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Nov 4 (IANS) Pheasants, the shy and charming birds known for their brilliant plumage and common in the western Himalayas, are on the decline, not only in the region but across the globe, a biologist from the Britain-based World Pheasants Association has said.The population of pheasants across the globe is declining and there is a need to conserve them for future generations, John Corder, a conservation-breeding expert from the Pheasants Association, told IANS during a visit here.

Fifty-one species are found in the world. All species, except the Congo peafowl, are from Asia. About one-third of the pheasants are found in India, particularly in the western Himalayas.

“Some of the species like the western tragopan and the monal are on the verge of extinction and there is a need to save them from certain extinction,” Corder said.

Corder was in Himachal Pradesh over the weekend to review the breeding programme of the western tragopan and the cheer pheasant. He has been associated with the breeding programme of the western tragopan since 2004.

Four pairs of the western tragopan, a highly endangered bird species, bred again in captivity in June this year at the Central Zoo Authority-funded pheasantry at Sarahan, 160 km from Shimla.

The western tragopan, the state bird of Himachal, is a brilliantly coloured Asian pheasant found at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,600 metres in temperate forests of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

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

“The success of the breeding programme has been recognised throughout the conservation world, as it could lead to a reintroduction programme for this highly endangered species in nature,” Corder said.

“The red jungle fowl with a rich brown, orange and metallic greenish black plumage, which is considered ancestral to the domestic fowl species, is widespread across Asia but has become hybridised with domestic poultry. But in Himachal, its wild population is still found in the interior hills,” he added.

Corder is known throughout the world for implementing the captive-breeding programmes of the green peafowl, the Malaysian peacock and the mountain peacock in Malaysia; the Edward’s peafowl in Vietnam; and the cheer pheasant in Pakistan.

The biologist attributed the downfall of the pheasants to habitat degradation, hunting and extensive grazing of the forest by livestock.

Corder, who is the vice-president of the Pheasant Association, met Forest Minister J.P. Nadda and discussed the pheasant conservation projects being implemented in this hill state, besides the strategies to be adopted for the effective implementation of such projects.

Nadda said the biologist suggested a number of steps to create a natural environment in aviaries and change in diet for successful breeding and rearing of the chicks.

He said that a project was under way at Sarahan to construct new aviaries to allow birds to breed more successfully.

Himachal Pradesh is known as a storehouse of biodiversity. Its lush green valleys and snow-capped mountains nest 36 percent of India’s bird species.

Of the 1,228 species of birds that have been reported in India, 447 have been recorded in the hill state alone by the Himachal State Council for Science, Technology and Environment in its biodiversity report.

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