Manali: The endangered but majestic pheasant bird Monal is to soon get an advanced breeding centre in Manali as the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has approved a proposal for it and the design for the centre stands finalized.
Plans to construct a Monal breeding were started in 2009, but it failed to get started for lack of enough available funds.
Initially many designs were rejected and now finally the Zoo Authority of India has ratified an ultra modern design for a centre for the Himalayan Monal (lophophorus impejanus).
To keep a constant watch on birds, cameras would be installed in the cages and a stud book would be maintained. Each bird will get a name and their complete case study data since birth would be prepared.
Kullu forest conservator B S Rana disclosed to Hill Post that CZA would soon install cages and cameras to record the activities of birds in captivity.
“This would definitely prove a vital step in the conservation of the Himalayan monal. They would get a new life after this move,” he said adding cages would be designed according to the weather conditions in Manali so that even heavy snowfall would not have any effect on them.
Rana said poaching for its crest, human interference with nature and increasing pressure on jungles were some of the causes for the dwindling monal numbers. “A number of monals have been killed merely to obtain their beautiful crests.
The monal centre in Manali would be the first such breeding centre in western Himalayas. Officials at the wildlife department believe that the Himalayan forests will again chirp with the voice of the rare but beautiful monal.
The Delhi zoo authority will be spending about Rs 1 crore or more on this project.
At present, there are 5 Monal pairs at the Manali centre and a summary wild bird count has put the figure of about 5000 in all of higher reaches of Himachal that forms its natural habitat.
The bird’s natural range extends from eastern Afghanistan through the Himalayas in Pakistan and India (states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh), Nepal, southern Tibet, and Bhutan. There is also a report of its occurrence in parts of Burma.
It is a relatively large-sized pheasant. The bird is about 70 centimeters long. The male weighs up to 2380 grams and the female 2150. The adult male has multicoloured plumage throughout, while the female, as in other pheasants, is dull in colour.
Notable features in the male include a long, metallic green crest, coppery feathers on the back and neck, and a prominent white rump that is most visible when the bird is in flight. The tail feathers of the male are uniformly rufous, becoming darker towards the tips, whereas the lower tail coverts of females are white, barred with black and red.
The female has a prominent white patch on the throat and a white strip on the tail. The first-year male and the juvenile resemble the female, but the first-year male is larger and the juvenile is less distinctly marked.
It occupies upper temperate oak-conifer forests interspersed with open grassy slopes, cliffs and alpine meadows between 2400 and 4500 meters, where it is most common between 2700 and 3700 meters. It may descend to 2000 meters in the winter. It tolerates snow and will dig through it to obtain plant roots and invertebrate prey.
The breeding season is April through August, and they generally form pairs at this time. In winter they congregate in large coveys and roost communally.
In Himachal the male lophophorus impejanus is called monal, while the female is known as kardi.
Photo by Sanjay Datta