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Population survey of western tragopan in April likely

The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, will undertake a population survey and identification of new habitats of western tragopan in the state so that some more pheasantries can be set up for their breeding and conservation which will help enhance their number.

The Wildlife Department has held a meeting with officials of the institute to undertake a survey to get the estimate of the population of western tragopan. In an earlier survey, the estimated number of the birds was found to be around 1,400, which was considered to be on the higher side.

The population estimation is likely to be done before the breeding season so that there can be a broad idea about the population of the bird in Himachal. “Besides undertaking the population survey, experts will also identify new habitats so that more aviaries can be set up as part of the conservation programme,” said a wildlife official.

It will also look into stress factors which could have been inimical in their propogation and led to their population dwindling in the state.

The wildlife wing of the Forest Department is undertaking two conservation projects for western tragopan at Sarahan near Rampur in Shimla district and for chir pheasant near Chail. The experts from the wildlife institute will visit the areas which had evidence of the western tragopan presence so that steps could be taken to help in attracting them.

The Wildlife Department plans to involve the local shepherds along with their staff during the population survey, likely to be held in March-April. Evidence is collected about the presence of the pheasants even through indirect sighting as reported by the locals.

The Great Himalayan National Park is one of the few places in the world supporting a substantial population of endangered western tragopan. All pheasant species have been placed in Schedule I and IV of the Indian Wildlife (Protection), 1972, to provide them adequate protection.

After the survey is complete and there is an idea about the potential new habitats, birds bred in captivity will be released. Their reintroduction will also be done in areas where the population of the birds are found to be very scant. The focus will be on high-altitude areas in Chamba, Kullu, Shimla, Kangra and Kinnaur where the pheasants are found.

The Tribune (13-10-2013)