Shimla: No breeding of Western Tragopan, a highly endangered pheasant, has been allowed this year at the Saharan breeding centre as the birds weakened by e-coli infection last year are still to recover from the after effects, wildlife warden here said.
â€œItâ€™s a zero breeding year because first we are concerned about health of the birds in captivity,â€ said AK Gulati, Principal Chief Conservator Wildlife.
In all, 19 of these rare birds (10 males and 9 females) are in captivity at the only breeding center of its kind in the country under a program that is supported by Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
â€œBecause of the infection detected on the birds last year, it affected their breeding and we decided to give the birds rest this season,â€ said Gulati. In the wild, the birds normally lay eggs in the summer that hatch in July.
Last season the birds had laid 17 fertilized eggs of which only one hatched and that too the chick had died within a week. Three adult female birds also had died and post-mortem findings came up with bacterial (e-coli) infection as the cause.
In collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India, a detailed scientific study about the birds behavior has been started, said the wildlife warden.
Since 1992, when the Saharan aviary was set up for captive breeding of the Western Tragopan so as to augment the depleting population in the wild, the centre has bred only 22 birds of which 5 died soon after and no bird has been released into the wild.
In 2009, two chicks had managed to survived out of 23 fertilized eggs that were laid.
Central Zoo Authority (CZA) in 2003 approved a 10 year Rs 4.94 crore management plan for conservation breeding of Western Tragopan, a bird that has been hunted for its bright plumage to near extinction.
To encourage breeding under natural conditions, 7 large enclosures costing Rs 1.33 crore were under construction but heavy snow in the winter caused their collapse, further hampering the program.
Figuring in the Red Data Book of IUCN and endemic to Western Himalayan region, captive breeding of Western Tragopan was for the first time achieved at Sarhan in 1993 and the bird was declared as state bird in 2007.