Friday, December 24, 2010
The photo was taken in 2010 by photographer, Dhritiman Mukherjee.
The Western Tragopan is the State Bird of Himachal Pradesh, India.
'This majestic species has a very rapidly declining and severely fragmented population, primarily owing to intense habitat conversion and high hunting levels. Population trends and further fragmentation are projected to continue.' - IUCN
Details on the following website -
Photo of Green peafowl Pavo muticus, Bronx Zoo, New York by Stavenn. From Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_peafowl
Monday, September 6, 2010
The birds kept at the park have been hatched at the other pheasantries in the state or have been rescued from the wild.
Himalayan Monal, male, at the Himalaya Bird Park, Simla. Photograph by Anita Chauhan, 2010.
So, if you are heading to the hill station the next summer, do spend some time at the Himalaya Bird Park. It will also be useful to read up on the distribution and habits of the seven species of pheasants that occur in Himachal Pradesh. The following website will be useful -
An update: The Himalaya Bird Park, a small walk-in aviary will be closed down in a few years time. The small size of the aviary does not conform to the new 'zoo standards' developed by the Central Zoo Authority. However, visitors can view many species of pheasants at the Kufri Nature Park that is located near Shimla.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Koklass Pheasant at the Shimla WCA Sanctuary, 2010. Photo by Anita Chauhan.
About the Sanctuary
The WCA Sanctuary, situated 8 Kms East of Shimla at an altitude of 1915 m to 2750 m, is a 20 minute drive from the city, via the Sanjauli-Dhalli Tunnel. The entrance of the sanctuary is located just off the highway. It is home to two species of pheasants – the Koklass pheasant and the Kaleej pheasant. This sanctuary is also a source of water supply to Shimla city, as the rain-fed stream water is collected in a large tank constructed over a century ago within the sanctuary.
According to the information leaflet of the Wildlife Division, Shimla, the sanctuary spreads over an area of 1015.02 ha, and was leased in perpetuity by the owner - Rana of Koti Estate - to the Shimla Municipal Committee in 1878. The forest was declared a Protected Forest in 1952; and was finally notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1999. Till year 2006, it was under the administrative control of the Municipal Corporation of Shimla, and was handed over to the Wildlife Division of Shimla in 2009.
Apart from pheasants, the sanctuary is also home to Leopards, Himalayan Black Bears, Barking Deer, Goral, Langur, Macaques, Flying Squirrels, Yellow-throated Marten, and Porcupines. It is linked to the Chail Wildlife Sanctuary ( known for the wild population of Cheer pheasants) by a forest corridor at its southern boundry.
The sanctuary has a road going upto Seog that is accessible by car and bicycle; and various walking trails. At present, a wood cabin serves as a reception area for visitors where they can get permits for cars and bicycles (a fee of Rs. 25 per person and Rs. 200 per vehicle is charged). Visitors can also hire bicycles at the cabin for a small fee. Visitors can drive upto the water tank at Seog, and can obtain a permit for stopping at the Forest Rest House during the day. A new zonal office is being constructed at the entrance that is expected to be completed by next year. [ For information, contact : Wildlife Warden-cum-Deputy Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Division, Shimla. Telephone: 0177-2623993 ).
Signages at the entrance gate inform the visitors about the fee and the necessary precautions to take while in the sanctuary. The best time to sight the pheasants is early morning between 6 AM and 7 AM. Since it is open to visitors from 10 AM – 5 PM, special permission is required to visit at earlier hours. The hiking trails can be covered on foot in 3-5 hours. The trail leading upto Chharabra offers the best wildlife sightings. Visitors are advised to take a guard along while hiking, or be suitably prepared in case they encounter a leopard or a bear. Interestingly, most of the staff at the WCA sanctuary (except the chawkidars) is female.
Sighting the Koklass Pheasant
Myself, accompanied by my cousin and his family, had reached the sanctuary at 6:30 AM. We had arranged to meet the Forest Guard Ms. Gita (name changed for privacy). The morning sky was only slightly cloudy, raising our hopes for a rain-free Sunday.
A narrow ‘kutcha’ road leads into the sanctuary, to the water tank (an Olympic swimming pool- sized tank with rock walls, that was constructed by the British 100 years ago). The drive to the water tank is through pristine devdar forest. Every turn brings into view beautiful flora and superb views of the valley. There are several streams and waterfalls that intersect the path, small brightly painted wooden bridges across them dot the path. The water from these streams is collected in the large tank, which then flows through pipes running underground below the path to Filtering Stations supplying water to Shimla and Sanjauli.
We drove slowly on the ‘kutcha’ road, taking in the scenery, stopping once in a while to inspect colorful mushrooms and wildflowers growing along the road. (Also saw dung mounds of herbivores on the road deposited previously).
Suddenly, my cousin stopped the car and pointed ahead towards the roadside. A Koklass male was walking majestically away from us – giving us a window of 15 seconds to grab and focus our cameras. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it flew downhill and disappeared into the forest valley – leaving us dizzy with excitement! According to the forest guard Ms. Gita, although WCA Sanctuary has the largest population of Koklass in H.P., sightings are uncommon.
We drove to the water tank which had been emptied for cleaning, and sighted many passerine bird species in the area. We also went to the Forest Rest House and chatted with the guard, who offered us tea and told us about his encounters with the leopard in the sanctuary.
For wildlife fanatics, definately worth another visit.
An interesting fact is that – unlike other wildlife sanctuaries in the country – WCA Sanctuary doesnot permit habitation and exploitation of minor forest produce (MFP) like firewood, honey, herbs etc by the local population. It is considered ecologically vulnerable as it is also a catchment area for the city water supply.
The worrisome fact is that – although the sanctuary is connected by a forest corridor to Chail Wildlife Sanctuary at one of its periphery - the corridor has private land holdings which are increasingly subject to agriculture or urbanization, reducing the connection between the 2 sanctuaries.
There is a 3 Star Hotel Wood Park situated conveniently near the sanctuary entrance near Dhalli. The famous Oberoi Wildflower Hall Hotel is also situated nearby.
Monday, June 28, 2010
The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is one of the newest National Parks in India. It is located in Kullu district in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The park was notified in the year 1984. The park is spread over an area of 1,171 km2 between altitudes of 1500 and 6000m in the Western Himalayas.
The GHNP is a region of high biological diversity - a habitat for more than 375 fauna species that comprises nearly around 31 mammals, 181 birds, 3 reptiles, 9 amphibians, 11 annelids, 17 mollusks and 127 insects. These are protected under the guidelines of Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which also disallow hunting of wild animals and prohibits human interference in the Core area of the Park.
The Himachal Government (with a team of Indian and international wildlife biologists) undertook a survey of the watersheds of Jiwa, Sainj, and Tirthan rivers in Kullu district – the Himachal Wildlife Project (1980, 1983) - which yielded the first contemporary data in India on the status and ecology of wild fauna such as the Western Tragopan and Cheer Pheasants. It also identified the site for the establishment of the Great Himalayan National Park, representing the Western Himalayan Moist Temperate forest.
Out of the total area of the National Park - 1,171 sq km - a 5 km wide buffer area, extending from the western periphery of the Park, has been classified as the Ecozone. The Ecozone has an area of 326.6 sq km (including 61 sq kms of Tirthan wildlife sanctuary) with about 120 small villages, comprising 1600 households with a human population of about 16,000. An area of 90 sq. kms. in Sainj valley has been classified as Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary, which allows limited access to village people for harvesting Minor Forest Produce.
The boundaries of GHNP are contiguous with the Pin Valley National Park in Trans-Himalaya, the Rupi-Baba Wildlife Sanctuary in Sutlej watershed, and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary. The varied wildlife habitats of these protected areas support the Western Himalayan biodiversity – tropical, alpine and Tibetan. The Park is a crucial protected area because it connects other ‘island’ habitats, increasing the availability of migration routes between protected areas which is essential for the survival of many animals.
A trek in any of the Park's 4 valleys, brings one into the high altitude habitat of animals such as the Blue sheep and Snow leopards. The best time to sight the wildlife is autumn (September-November) as the animals start their seasonal migration to lower altitudes before the winter sets in.
Among the large mammals that visitors may encounter, there are several species of herbivores that are characteristic of the Park.
• The Goral (Naemorhedus goral), a small goat-antelope found in the lower forests
• Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) in the higher forests
• the Bharal, or Blue Sheep (Pseudois nayaur) above the tree-line
• These mammals are the prey for Leopards (in the forest zone)
• and Snow Leopards (above tree-line).
• Himalayan Black Bears inhabit the forests
• Asiatic brown Bears occur on the alpine meadows.
Among birds, the Park is well known as the most important habitat for the endangered Western Tragopan. Four other species of pheasants (Cheer, Koklass, Kalij, Monal) occur in or adjacent to the Park. Raptors are also a prominent feature of the Park - Lammergeiers, Himalayan Griffon Vultures, and Golden Eagles. A great variety of other birds also occurs, some of which reach the western limit of their geographical distribution in the Park.
Tourism Activities - Trekking
The Great Himalayan National Park offers the hiker a wide range of experiences in the natural wonders of the Park. Trails range from relatively easy day walks in the Ecozone, to challenging week or longer treks through arduous and spectacular terrain.
At GHNP, there are numerous habitats for exploration: from lush forests of oak, conifer, and bamboo, to gentle alpine meadows; swift flowing rivers, high elevation glaciers. There are opportunities to observe endangered species of the Western Himalayas in their natural habitat.
The starting point for any trekking or visit to GHNP is the Kullu Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This region is best accessible by air (road routes also available). A pre-trek meeting at GHNP headquarters in Shamshi (near Kullu) is recommended.
The Park offers excellent opportunities for bird watching, wildlife viewing, religious pilgrimages and cultural tours. There are 4 entrance points to the Park. The Park has two facilities for tourists: a Tourist Center at Sai Ropa and an Information Center at Larjee.
GHNP is a major source of water for the rural and urban centers of the region with four major rivers of the area originating from the glaciers in the Park. A series of 11 small hydro-electric dams are planned for the Tirthan river.
The villages in the Ecozone have historically had some economic dependence on the resources of the land that was later incorporated into the Park. The designation of the Park boundaries and the resulting loss of these resources have economically impacted these villages. In response, various programs have, and are being, developed by the state government of Himachal Pradesh, NGO's (non-government organizations), and the villagers, to create alternative employment.
The forest provides local people with Non- Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) such as honey, fruit, nuts, mushroom, bark of birch, Rhododendron flowers, medicinal plants (e.g., Aconites, Valerians, Taxus, Dactyloirhiza, and Jurinea ), bamboo and fuel wood.
The most important non-agricultural use of land in the Kullu and Seraj region was animal-grazing in the countryside. Village households had small numbers of cattle, sheep and goats for subsistence use. For commercial use, local villagers and outsiders also kept larger flocks of sheep and goats, which had to migrate in search of food. Each spring, with receding snows, flocks moved upwards through the forest zone into alpine pastures, grazing on nutritious upland vegetation. Spring is also the Pheasant's breeding season, and the presence of large flocks, often accompanied by dogs, results in nests being abandoned or eggs being stolen. There is also a risk of disease transmission from the cattle to the wild herbivores.
The villagers hunted mammals and birds in the forest, especially in winter when the snows drove ungulates down the mountainsides toward the farm settlements. They do not use guns, but lay snares for Quail, Pheasants, and even mammals such as Goral, Bharal (blue sheep) and Musk deer for food and other products.
Monal, Western tragopan and Koklass pheasants were killed for their meat, and crest feathers which were used for decorating traditional head-gear. Falcons were sold to Pathan traders.
Skyrocketing prices in international markets, overwhelmed the capacity of officials to control or even monitor the harvest. The most dangerous case was the market for the musk pod of male Musk deer, which were hunted close to extinction in the 1970s. The price for Brown and Black bear skins had also escalated. The hunters were mostly local men, but there were some outsiders too. In 1982, hunting was banned in Himachal Pradesh, including in GHNP.
In principal, the dependencies of the local communities on the biodiversity of the Park (in form of herb collection, sheep grazing, etc.) will be reduced if they are provided with the alternative source of income. In practice, bringing about a change in the livelihoods is a difficult thing to do. It can not be done by merely offering them alternate income generation packages - handlooms, bee-keeping boxes, tool kits, etc. - without social or infrastructural support.
The key to change has been the Village Ecodevelopment Committees (VEDCs) and the smaller self-sustained user-groups, such as Women's Saving and Credit Groups (WSCGs).
Park officials are collaborating with the local non-government organization SAHARA (Society for the Advancement of Hill Rural Areas) to organize the women of poor families into small Women's Savings and Credit Groups (WSCGs) groups.
The most important activities that these groups are currently engaged in include medicinal plant cultivation (in the Ecozone), vermicomposting, organic farming, and production of handicrafts. These activities are starting to provide some alternative income to replace their loss of herb collecting rights in GHNP.
Conservation Education and Health-care activities by NGOs have also helped to improve the standard of living in the village communities. Poultry farming will perhaps reduce their dependence on hunting birds and animals as sources of protein. Involvement of locals in EcoTourism activities, offers rewards to both the visitors and the villagers, and helps protect the GHNP.
Poaching activities have affected the wildlife in the Park. Enforcement is difficult unless people in the buffer zone realize their responsibility to conserve the wildlife heritage of the State. Poaching of Musk deer, Brown bear and Goral (goat-antelope) and illegal harvesting of medicinal plants like Vallerina (Nainu), Pichroriza (Kauru), Aconitum (Patish), and incense (Dhoop), still pose a problem . Birds such as Monal and Western tragopan are on the verge of extinction though hunting was banned in Himachal Pradesh in 1982. Estimated numbers of Musk deer and Goral killed in a year in this area are around 50 and 100 respectively.
Photo source : Wikipedia - J.M. Garg
Tribune News Service,Naveen S. Grewal
Monday, June 21, 2010
Photo : By Dave59, at the Orang rehabilitation centre, Buket Lawang ,Sumatra.
Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fauna_of_Indonesia
'A massive programme of planting more than five million trees has begun in the most degraded areas of the forest, to link up the fragments of rich forest into continguous wildlife habitat.' - BirdLife International
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
The area remains under snow for about three months from late December to March. Spring heralds the sprouting of many herbaceous species including primulas, potentillas, geraniums, balsams, and ground orchids that continue to bloom till September adding colour to the lush surroundings. The drive to Kufri Nature Park from Shimla, is through lush coniferous forest. When this author visited the Park in September 2009, incessant rain for the previous 4 days had caused many waterfalls and natural springs to flow, which made the journey even more memorable. Visitors can stop at the waterfalls, photograph various flowering shrubs and magnificent pines draped in colorful climbers.
There are a few small towns en route where one can buy bottled water and snacks.
An arched signage saying ‘Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri’ announces that one has reached the Park. A pictorial signboard display near the entrance also gives an idea of the kind of birds and animals that the visitors will see in the Park’s enclosures. The reception area has a ticketing counter, and also sells posters and greeting cards with pictures of the wild fauna.
The Park trail/walkways help the visitors to appreciate Nature in its most serene self. The trail meanders through the slope of the Park, with enclosures of animals on both sides of it. The trail is shaded by large Oak and Deodar trees, and on a sunny day visitors can carry light woolens.
The natural habitat of the Nature Park houses select Himalayan species primarily for the purpose of education of the visitors. However, the animal enclosures here are big enough to house the wild animals in near natural habitat. The enclosures include shrubs, trees and boulders for the animals to feel at home and even hibernate (as brown bears do) during the winter. While inside the Nature Park, one can also enjoy a breathtaking view of the Himalayan snow-clad peaks.
At the beginning of the trail, large enclosures of Barking deer can be seen. Further ahead on the trail, there are enclosures for other herbivores such as Bharal, Sambhar and Ghoral , and Tibetan wolf. There are also separate large enclosures for the Black bears and the Brown bears, and visitors can enjoy photographing them from special viewing platforms. During late morning hours, the bears like to laze and do not show much activity. In the wild, the birds and animals are most active at dawn and at dusk, and some are even nocturnal.
The Park trail runs through a picturesque landscape, and there are benches for visitors to rest on and soak in the environs. The moss and lichen laden trees along the trail are also labeled with their scientific and common names to add to the enriching experience.
The most exciting bit of the trail is the enclosure for the rare Snow leopard. The Park is home to a male snow leopard named ‘Subhash’. Scientists working with the Forest Department are going to introduce a captive female snow leopard to help with the breeding program for this endangered species. It is exciting to see this species from less than 10 meters away, considering it is very elusive and difficult to photograph in its natural habitat in the Himalayas.
Situated near the snow leopard enclosure are the Pheasant aviaries. The Park has some pens that were built earlier, housing the Red Junglefowl, Kaleej, Himalayan Monal and even a Silver Pheasant. A new circular shaped aviary built nearby, houses the majestic State Bird of Himachal Pradesh – the Western Tragopan, along with Cheer pheasants, Koklass, Himalayan Monal and Red Junglefowl. Visitors can walk around the enclosures to view and photograph these beautiful elusive birds.
At the end of the trail, just outside the Park boundary, there are shops selling souvenirs, tea and refreshments.
[The park is open from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M., and closed on Mondays.]
With inputs from the H.P. Forest Department website.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
33 of the 49 species of pheasants are listed as Endangered, Vulnerable or Near-threatened in the Red List. Together with other Galliform species, it makes this Order of birds, one of the most threatened with extinction due to deforestation and illegal hunting, among the birds.
For details about the Red List, visit -
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
For more photos of the region, see the following Flickr photos -
[Links to Flickr photos used with thanks. Members, please feel free to give your feedback/ comments ].
Friday, April 23, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
See photo -
Timber, coffee, tea, rubber, palm oil, and chocolate plantations are eating into rain-forest land. The ever present and growing demand for these products shrinks the wildlife habitat everyday. So, the next time you sip that cup of cappuccino, or lounge on that deck chair, think about how you are impacting the rain-forests.
Several NGOs, like the Rainforest Alliance, are promoting products such as coffee that is 'rain-forest friendly'.
Photo source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainforest_Alliance
Some countries in the SE Asian region have legislation making it illegal to harvest timber, and practise limited plantation forestry for timber. This timber is certified by the government.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Private aviaries in Europe and the USA have been keeping pheasants for more than a century. The pheasants were brought back from expeditions to Asia, and at that time were an awe-inspiring species. In more recent past, due to deforestation and over-hunting, the pheasants started becomming rarer in their natural habitats. The private aviaries (although themselves facing problems of inbreeding) became an important source of pheasants for conservation breeding projects by organisations like the IUCN partner World Pheasant Association.
Today, all the rare pheasant species housed in zoos and aviaries are recorded in Studbooks, and exchanged between countries for conservation breeding. In India, the pheasants are a protected species, and are only kept and reared in Government owned zoos.
Some of the species of pheasants are shown here.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
In India, the Pheasant species occur in the Himalayan mountains, from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to the North-Eastern states in the east. Some of the species are - the Western Tragopan, the Cheer Pheasant, the Kalij Pheasant, the Monal and the Eared Pheasant. Pheasant species such as the Red Junglefowl and the Blue Peafowl have a more widespread distribution in the Indian sub-continent. The Grey Junglefowl is found in the forests of southern India.
The Western Tragopan at Kufri Nature Park in Himachal Pradesh, India.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010
An all new book on pheasants is going to be out in a few months time.The book, titled 'Conserving Asia's Wildlife Treasure: The Pheasants', is compiled by Anita Chauhan, a postgraduate from the University of Delhi.
Many of the species in this particular Family of birds (Phasianidae) are threatened with extinction in their native habitat due to deforestation and hunting. This book aims to improve awareness among people about the pheasants, to help with the conservation of these species.
The book contains information on the world’s pheasant species in a concise form that will appeal to people from all backgrounds and ages. This introductory book will particularly appeal to college level students of science.
A portion of the earnings from the sale of the book will be donated to conservation projects for pheasants.
Photo blog at Flickr.com : http://www.flickr.com/photos/30654468@N03/
The pheasants book is now available in online stores-