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Breeding a rare and endangered bird species

Kanwar Yogendra


SHIMLA: The Wildlife Wing of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department has once again succeeded in breeding the rare and endangered species of Western Tragopan after a gap of 12 years in one of its bird sanctuaries here. "This is the second successful breeding in captivity of Western Tragopan anywhere in the world", said T.S. Thakur, Wildlife Conservator of Forests.

The department has developed a captive breeding centre, Sarahan Pheasantry, amid thick Pine and Deodar forests in Rampur-Sarahan area of upper Shimla district. Western Tragopan or Tragopan Melanocephalus is one of the main species along with Himalayan Monal, Koklass and Kalij, which are being bred here.

It is one of the most beautiful, long tailed gallinaceous birds having a brightly coloured plumage. Out of its five species the Western Tragopan is found in Western Himalayas from Northwest Pakistan to Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir and in east from Himachal Pradesh to Tehri Garhwal and Kumaon in Uttranchal. The Thar Jot site near Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary is the definite site of Western Tragopan. It has also been reported in Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu.

In the local parlance the Tragopan is called "Jujurana" and it finds a place as "endangered species" in the Red Data Book of International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is also a Schedule I species as per Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, informed the Forest officials.

Two pairs of Western Tragopan were brought to Sarahan Pheasantry from Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary in 1990 and in 1993 the Pheasantry witnessed first breeding of Western Tragopan in captivity in the world. The captive bred male bird is still alive in this Pheasantry, informed Conservator Mr. Thakur. Since then the eggs laid had never been hatched, he said.

This year after the successful mating in April the eggs, when laid, were set under the "broody hen" as the Tragopan female did not sit for incubation herself. Two chicks were born after 28 days of incubation on Monday much to the delight of caretakers in the Pheasantry. The Pheasantry was totally closed for visitors till the end of July, solely for this purpose.

On asked how this feat was achieved, Mr. Thakur told The Hindu , that this rare achievement was made possible by providing better pheasantry facilities and improvements such as stress-free environment and dietary changes as advised by Mr. John Corder, International Vice President, World Pheasant Association during his visits to the Sarahan Pheasantry and the consistent efforts made by the staff members of Sarahan Wildlife Division.

The achievement of this rare feat will be a stepping stone towards implementation of the proposed project for conservation breeding programme of Western Tragopan in Sarahan Pheasantry in which the technique of parent rearing of the chicks shall be adopted.

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