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TRAGOPAN

            Tragopan is one of the most beautiful birds among the Pheasants found in India. Out of five species of Tragopan found  in the Himalayan region, Tragopan blythii  (Jerdon) is found only in Nagaland. Tragopan blythii is the  State Bird of Nagaland. The bird is hunted down indiscriminately and has become endangered species- almost on the verge of extinction as steps have been taken for its conservation Neither by the Government or local communities so far.  It belongs to the Order – Galliformes, Family – Phasianidae & Species –Tragopan blythii.

Distribution:

It is a rare and endangered pheasant found only in Nagaland. Though no evidence of migration from the Himalayan is recorded, it presumed to be so. It is available particularly in higher elevation ranging from 1800 to 2500 metres above M.S.L. The bird is found in areas such as Japfu range, Dzuku valley in Kohima District, Pfutsero, Meluri in Phek District, foothills of Saramati, Fakim Wildlife Sanctuary, Noklak in Tuensang District and Satoi range in Zunheboto District.  

                                      Tragopan

 

Local Names:  

 Gnu ( Angami ), Aogho ( Chang ) , Chingto ( Kuki) , Hur huri ( Assam and Miri ) , Aghah ( Sema).

Requirement of Climate and Habitat:

They prefer high hills where the climate is cold and temperate where extremely cool during winter and occasional occurrence of frost is there in higher altitude. Temperature varying 5 to 25 Degrees centigrade and average rainfall varying from 200 to 250 Cm is most suitable for their habitat. In natural surrounding they usually live in a dense evergreen forests with moderate undergrowth. Affects thick undergrowth in heavy evergreen forests. Their common places of occurrence are along nallahs and streams where freshly succulent vegetative growth of shoots and ferns is luxuriant and plentiful.

 Habits and Morphological Characteristics:

The most striking characteristic of these birds is their beautiful plumage of the males. The hens are not brilliantly coloured. It is of the size of a chicken. The male has an orange red in the neck with a greenish blue patch at the lower side of the face. The feathers are spotted /dotted with a brownish red colour. In males, around the eyes  is covered by white and black spots. When courting the cock inflates the large brightly coloured patch on the throat and erects two long fleshy horns above the eyes. This phenomenon is seen when excited only. The hens are greyish brown and of similar size. The tails of Tragopans are laterally compressed . The female has shorter tail than that of male. They are terrestrial birds but roost on the branches of  trees not very high from the ground at nights spending most of the day time on the ground scratching for food. They do not fly high above and long distance. Hence they climb step by step till they reach their roosting branches. They roost in a particular place and make it more or less permanent and flight is resorted to as and when dangers of disturbance noticed. Of all other pheasants,  Tragopan is wonderfully coloured exhibiting all the dramatic colours of nature in its magnificient plumage. They form a group of  3 or 4 members in a given place. The male is very aggressive, leads the group  and defends their territory from intrusion by male of other groups of the same species. The migration takes place only when the fragmentation of their habitats occurs. They occupy their territory for food and breeding as big as one Sq. km.  In the process of occupation of territory, the male fight with the intruders sometimes ends with casualty or fatal.

Feeding in Natural Habitat:

During the month of March every year, they select a breeding place usually on a rocky hideout where the nest with dried leaves and twigs are made.  Having secured breeding territory and their partner, the male display of courtship in many ways. Usually the female takes initiative and excites the male for mating. When the male gets excited its two fleshy horns above the eyes become erected and seen distinctively. Fanning and erecting the tail and dancing in front of the female is observed. .  The mating season starts from the month of March and takes about a month or so. The mating language produce by male is “MAO, MAO, MAO” with a deep base sound and the sound produced by the female is a sharp quacking sound forming into musical tune. In natural environment, they lay 2 to 6 eggs per clutch but hatch out only 75 % of the eggs laid. The incubation of eggs  by female takes 28 to 31 days. While incubating the female turns all the eggs in a regular interval in order to maintain uniform temperature. When female comes out for food the male use to guard the nest with excitement. While hatching, the female does not roost on a tree but remains with the chicks/eggs.

Mother’s Care for Young Ones:

As long as the chicks are not capable of climbing on trees, mother remains with the chicks on the ground at night. For about a month or so mother takes care of the chicks. Like domestic fowl, the chicks run a round with their mother immediately after hatching out. As long as the chicks are unable to feed themselves the mother remains with them on the ground, even at night. After one and half month they do not depend on their mother for food and roam about freely.                

Mortality:

Mortality in young stages in natural habitat is also very high due to preying by rodents, natural diseases. Very often they fall from steep rock and die. When the chicks attains two to three months old the chance of mortality is less.

Food Habit:

 They are omnivorous in habit. They eat mostly ferns, fleshy and succulent/tender vegetative shoots, white ants, insects, snails, worms, beetles, pebbles, feed on grains, seeds and fruits found in their natural habitats.

Need for Conservation:

 The Tragopan  is being hunted for its flesh and beautiful plumage/ feathers. There is a lobby for the sale of  male Tragopan for its plumage resulting in abrupt reduction in the male population. A pair of Tragopan is priced at Rs 15,000 to 20,000 in the black market . Some villagers who are expert in capturing are being engaged for this venture. Due to human pressure, the  habitats of these beautiful birds  have been shrinking rapidly and in some pockets even fragmented. The range of the species becomes divided into many small, isolated fragments. Small relict  bird populations still remain in fragments of the original biotope, but because of their small size they are susceptible to random genetic and demographic processes, and the possible consequences of inbreeding. The risk of each of these mini-populations quickly dying out is thus great. Population management in such cases is necessary : natural habitat management ( in-situ) for isolated populations is possible, parallel with the management under Captive Breeding ( Ex-situ) to prevent further loss of genetic material in sub-population. These birds are endemic to Nagaland but have become endangered and therefore immediate remedial measures to save these birds from further depletion calls for ecological attention. The Tragopan pheasant is included under part –111 of Schedule- 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Objectives and for Tragopan Conservation Management:

In order to ensure the sustenance of viable populations of Tragopan in its natural habitats and to save from its extinction, the management strategy has to be adopted in ex-situ with reference to in-situ conservation

(a).       Ex-situ Management:

The goal of ex-situ (off-site) conservation is to provide support the survival of species in their natural environment (in-situ). For ex-situ management, the existing Kohima Zoological Park will be improvised and put into use as Captive Breeding Center which was established during 1973.

To build up stock of the species in captivity, breeding in captivity and releasing it back into wild in order to reinforce/ supplement the natural populations. 

To provide an avenue for conducting a research on the birds & to impart education to the mass for its conservation campaign.

(b) In-situ Management:

1.      To identify and prevent further fragmentation of natural habitats of the species.

2.      To save the species in in-situ environment.

3.       To maintain ecological balance.

4.      To elicit support and ensure participation of the villagers in its conservation.

Population: 

 The trend of Tragopan population in Nagaland is as follows:

The census conducted during 1989 in Fakim Wildlife Sanctuary, being natural habitat of Tragopan counted 309  Male and 181 Female, altogether 571 Nos. In Kohima Zoological captivity, the population is as follows:

1973                                                        2 Nos.

1974                                                        9

1975                                                        9

1976                                                        12

1977                                                        12

1978                                                        12

1979                                                        13

1980                                                        11

1981                                                        15

1982                                                        15

1983                                                        15

1984                                                        13

1985                                                        13

1986                                                        13

1987                                                        19

1988                                                        22

1989                                                        24

1990                                                        2. Ranikhet disease attacked the whole killing all the birds.

1991                                                        3

1992                                                        6

1993                                                        5

1994                                                        5

1995                                                        4

1996                                                        4

1997                                                        4

1998                                                        5

1999                                                        6

2000                                                        6