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With CZA nod, Monal breeding project to resume

With CZA nod, Monal breeding project to resume 
Pratibha Chauhan/TNS

Shimla, November 15
The Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department has got the Central Zoo Authority’s (CZA) sanction to resume the Rs 3 crore Himalayan Monal Pheasant Conservation and Breeding Project in the state.

The stunningly colourful Monal is the state bird of Himachal. Since it is found in large numbers in the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), the site for the conservation project will be in Manali. The Wildlife Wing has begun preparations to make enclosures that would provide a near-natural habitat for the birds to breed in captivity.

The Wildlife Wing started the Monal conservation and breeding in captivity programme in 2006 on the outskirts of Manali town. A sum of Rs 55 crore was sanctioned for the construction of enclosures to house the majestic bird, known for its colorful rainbow-like plumage. However, the project did not take off as the focus and thrust of the department on the conservation and breeding of Western Tragopan at Sarahan in Shimla district.

“Having got the approval of the CZA for the project’s revival, we intend to start work on construction of enclosures by April next year,” confirmed Lalit Mohan, additional principal chief conservator forest (APCCF), Wildlife.

Though the Monal is not as endangered as the Western Tragopan or the Chir Pheasant, but it’s much reduced sighting and apparently declining numbers have been a cause of concern for the Wildlife Department as well as environmentalists. “The population of the male bird witnessed a considerable decline because of heavy hunting. Its crest feather is often used to adorn the caps of people in the state,” admitted an official.

The forest department had imposed a ban on hunting of the Monal in 1982. Though illegal hunting continues, the bird can often be sighted in the higher reaches of Chamba, Kinnaur, Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Shimla and Sirmaur districts.

Victim of hunting

  • The Monal Pheasant (pic) is endemic to heights above 8,000 feet and found in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Tibet and Bhutan
  • In India, it is found in the entire Himalayan region, including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The bird exhibits fluctuating altitudinal migration, moving down to as low as 6,500 feet in winter and scaling up to 16,000 feet in summer
  • The population of the male bird witnessed a considerable decline because of heavy hunting as its crest feather is used to adorn the Himachali caps

The Tribune (16-11-2013)