Shimla, Feb 22: As the population of the western tragopan, a brilliantly-coloured Asian pheasant species, hovers on the brink of extinction globally, Himachal Pradesh is engaged in breeding its state bird in captivity. The world’s only breeding centre in Sarahan town, located some 160 km from this state capital, has 26 breeding birds. Five chicks were born in 2016. “Currently, we have 12 female and 14 male western tragopans,” breeding centre biologist Lakshmi rasimha told IANS. The pheasantry is jointly funded by the Central Zoo Authority and the wildlife wing of the state Forest Department.
The western tragopan is listed in the Red Data Book of the Intertiol Union for Conservation of ture (IUCN), a compendium of species facing extinction. It is the least-studied bird in the world owing to the tough topography of its habitat and being a shy bird. The first breeding in the centre, which was earlier used as a rehabilitation centre for rescued wild birds, was way back in 2005 when a western tragopan was bred in captivity for the first time in the world.
Subsequently, the Sarahan pheasantry was desigted as a western tragopan conservation breeding centre in 2007. John Corder of the World Pheasants Association was consulted on the overall magement of the birds. rasimha said in the past five years, 23 chicks have been born in the pheasantry and five tural deaths of the newly-born were reported during this period.
Ornithologists say the western tragopan, belonging to the family Phasianidae that also includes the peafowl and the red jungle fowl, is found in the northwestern Himalayan region of India and Pakistan. In India, its habitat is at an elevation of 2,400m to 3,600m in the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir and Kullu and Shimla districts of Himachal Pradesh.
It has also been reported in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. In the eastern Himalayas, the western tragopan is replaced by the satyr tragopan. Wildlife experts attribute their downfall to habitat degradation, hunting and extensive grazing of the forest by livestock. The Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the proximity to the Sarahan breeding centre, and the Great Himalayan tiol Park in Kullu district, are the potential western tragopan habitats. (IANS)