How Did Rare Pheasants Die At Himachal Centre?

Conservation officials are in a bit of a tizzy in Himachal Pradesh. With two fully grown Western tragopans dying within a week of each other, a project to breed the critically endangered bird has received a setback.One female Western tragopan died three days ago, while the other died last week at Sarahan pheasantry, 160 km from state capital Shimla. Officials say bacterial infection caused at least one of the deaths. There are now 11 pairs left for breeding at the pheasantry.

“Two fully grown Western tragopans died at the Sarahan pheasantry. The latest one was female Western tragopan, which died while laying eggs three days ago,” Chief Conservator (Faunal Diversity and Protected Areas) Sanjeeva Pandey told IANS.He said the female bird was infected with Escherichia coli bacteria, while the other one died due to some internal injuries. The Western tragopan is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh.

“We have sent a team of veterinarians from Shimla to find out the reason for the spread of bacterial infection at the pheasantry. All other birds in the pheasantry have been kept under surveillance and put on medication as there are chances that some other birds might be suffering from the infection,” Pandey said.He said the male Western tragopan died due to hemorrhage caused by internal injuries. “The birds generally become aggressive during the breeding season. It might have sustained injuries in a fight or by hitting some hard substance in the cage,” he said.

“We are conducting a detailed veterinary investigation to know the reasons for the death of the birds. A team is on the job to prevent any further mortality of the captive birds,” principal chief conservator of wildlife A.K. Gulati said.

The wildlife wing has also contacted John Corder, a conservation-breeding expert from Britain-based World Pheasants Association, who has been assisting the biologists here in the breeding programme since 2004.The Western tragopan is a brilliantly coloured Asian pheasant found at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,600 metres in the temperate forests of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.It is listed as “critically endangered” in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a compendium of species facing extinction.

The Sarahan pheasantry also houses monal, kalij and cheer pheasant species.




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