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State bird of Himachal artificially hatched for first time

State bird of Himachal artificially hatched for first time

By Satyen Mohapatra

New Delhi, Dec 25 (UNI) The first ever known record of successful artificial hatching and assisted rearing of Western Tragopan chicks has taken place this breeding season in Himachal Pradesh at the Conservation Breeding Centre for the Western Tragopan at Sarahan, Shimla.

In a remarkable feat the rare and vulnerable Himachal Pradesh’s state bird Westerm Tragopan has been artificially hatched in captivity for the first time, Dr Sushil Kapta, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Forest Department, Himachal Pradesh said.

He said this was the second attempt to artificially incubate the bird's eggs, the first attempt (during mid-2000) having produced no successful result.

The eggs were incubated in advance incubator using standardized settings of temperature and humidity over a period of 30 days.

The chicks were reared in specialized thermo-regulated brooder cages for a period of six-eight weeks before being transferred to outdoor enclosures. Of the 13 eggs that were incubated artificially, four chicks hatched of which three survived.

In total, 11 chicks were born during the 2017 breeding season -- seven naturally hatched and reared by Tragopan hens and four incubator-hatched but three died leaving eight surviving chicks. Thus the total Western Tragopans at Sarahan has gone up from 25 to 33, he added.

Recent estimates by Bird Life International (2017) suggest fewer than 3500 Western Tragopan world wide though the figure may be on the lower side. The bird is found in Pakistan administered Jammu and Kashmir regions, Chamba and Garhwal regions of HP and Uttarakhand respectively.

Because of the small and sparsely distributed population which is probably declining and becoming increasingly fragmented, the species has been categorized as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

The species inhabits the high-altitude temperate forests at elevations between 2400- 3200m. It is declining due to habitat loss and an overall reduction in the quality of the available habitat.

In 2003-04, the Central Zoo Authority approved Rs 493.90 lac conservation breeding project for the Western Tragopan submitted by the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (HPFD).

The first attempts and keeping and breeding Western Tragopan in captivity were carried out in the early 1990’s at a small rescue center, Sarahan pheasantry, situated in Sarahan Bushahr, Shimla, HP.

The first captive breeding of the species was reported in 1993, from a pair of wild-born rescued birds. In the eventual years, additional attempts were made at breeding the species with sporadic success.

The goal of the conservation breeding program was to captive breed and establish a ‘reserve’ population of the species in captivity.

The conservation breeding centre lies within the natural distributional range of the species and wild tragopans have been sighted. The centre is located adjacent to Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary and the birds could be re introduced into the sanctuary from the breeding centre.

In March 2017, prior to the onset of the breeding season, the captive population at Sarahan comprised of 25 birds with 14 males and 11 females.

During the 2017 breeding season, a total of 32 eggs were laid by nine breeding females. All the eggs were normal and no instance of abnormal eggs (thin-shelled, under-sized eggs) were reported.

The success was clearly due to variety of innovative steps taken to create and provide the best and most secure natural surrounding to the birds, Dr Kapta added.

A total of 33 cane basket nests were offered to all the breeding females in 11 different enclosures with a minimum of three different nest sites to provide females multiple nesting options to choose from.

These baskets were mounted at different locations and heights inside the enclosure,using tripods or wooden perches.

Dried moss and fern were used as nesting material. Additionally, bundles of dry grass, twigs and bamboo leaves were placed near the nest for the female to use in nest building. The nests were camouflaged using liana and other creepers from the sides and the top.

All nests were monitored using CCTV cameras.

The diet offered to the captive birds was specially chosen principally consisting of vegetative matters in the form of a mixture of fruits, vegetables, greens and sprouts and a small quantity of hard-boiled egg as a substitute for animal protein.

Grain and seed mix and sometimes wild berries collected from the natural habitat were also offered to the birds.

The health of birds are regularly checked and strict hygiene was is maintained, Dr Kapta said.


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