Pheasant breeding project suffers setback
Shimla, Sep 18: The prestigious project for breeding of the highly endangered western tragopan species suffered a further setback when another chick died at the Sarhan pheasantry on Friday.
With this three of the four chicks bred for the first time at the pheasantry have died. All chicks were born to the same pair in two clutches.
While Mr B.L. Negi, the Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Sarhan, refused to confirm or deny the death of the chick, sources in the department said that the chick, which sustained an injury on one of its legs last month, had died.
Over the past two months four birds have died. Besides three chicks, an adult pheasant also expired but it had completed the average life span.
It is a project of global importance as Sarahan pheasantry is the only one of its kind in the world having the rare birds in captivity. “Tragopan melanocephalus” for the zoologists, the rare pheasant is placed high on the Red Data Book of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) listing the highly endangered species. The survival of the species depends on success of the breeding programme being pursued by the department since 1991.
It took 15 years to have a successful breeding, thanks to the guidance of Mr John Corder, conservation breeding expert from the World Pheasants Association, who had been making regular visits to monitor the programme.
However, it appears that the department lacks the requisite expertise in captive rearing which is as much a specialised as breeding. The success of the Rs 4.93 crore breeding project is very much in doubt now.
Besides the lone surviving chick, the pheasantry still has three pairs of the rare bird but the breeding programme is in doldrums. The department will have to have fresh look at the programme and ensure that trained staff was deployed for such projects. Failure of the project could deprive the state of similar projects which are in the pipeline.
A core group under the Principal Secretary, Forests, was set up to oversee the conservation breeding programme but apparently the lack of expertise had undone the success achieved in breeding the pheasant.