Winged Guardians of Mountainscapes
WWF-India organized a talk on 15th February, 2014 at India International Centre, New Delhi where I was given an opportunity to talk about the state of mountain pheasants in India. Here is a brief introduction followed by a link to the full presentation.
I would also request IWC members to vote on the poll on our homepage "Are pheasants game-birds or endangered species?"
Mountain pheasants like the Himalayan Monal, Tragopan, , Koklas and Kaleej are the guardians of India's mountainscapes.
Pheasants belong to the order Galliformes or fowl like birds. This large family of birds includes the jungle fowl and peafowl which are found in the plains of India. The focus of this presentation is “mountain pheasants” which originated in the young Himalayan
Mountains. Almost all pheasant species are exploited in their native habitat by local communities and visiting hunters. Sixteen species have been introduced outside of their natural ranges for ornamental purposes, hunting, eggs and meat collection or for feathers
. Over one-third of total species of pheasants are officially listed as in danger of extinction from their native Habitat.
Why are they important?
Pheasant species range from sea level to 4,200 m mountain pheasants which inhabit the Himalayas and the higher mountain ranges of China, Japan, and Taiwan, and low elevation species like peafowl and jungle fowl. Since pheasants are ground dwelling birds,
they are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance. After establishing a close link between oak trees and pheasants for shelter, ecologists have reached the conclusion that a decline in the pheasant population mirrors an adverse change in the mature forest.
So in scientific terms, pheasants are considered „indicator species„ of healthy habitat.
Years of research have shown that Himalayan pheasants are mostly found in moist, temperate forests where there is a thriving community of oak trees. Oaks are important in ecological terms because they grow only in forests that are mature with plenty of
healthy undergrowth in the form of vibrant grasses and bushes and a wide array of specialized tree species.
In scientific terms, pheasants are considered “indicator Species” of a habitat. An indicator species is an organism whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a specific environmental condition. Anyone living in the mountains will vouch for the Himalayan
Monal whose calls warn the ground dwelling animals like musk deer, tahr and bear of approaching hunters /poachers. Musk Deer, Himalayan Thar, Serow and Pheasants make the Himalayan Region an area of immense national significance. But the winged guardians
of these mountainscapes are indeed the pheasants.
The hills and valleys of the Himalayan ranges are the only areas left in the world where these exotic birds species still exist in their natural surroundings. Future of these birds is bleak unless awareness about their role in protecting the mountainscapes
is brought to the locals in their language.
The spectacular Monal, state bird of Uttarakhand is worth protecting; because protecting its habitat means protecting all other pheasants and galliformes, the musk deer, tahr, serow, bear ....the ecosystem which prevents natures
fury overtaking us, humanity.
In Europe only the Alpine Chough survives in high altitudes. (Photo Schilthorn, Swiss Alps) India's high altitudes are blessed with wildlife and the gorgeous pheasants. Let us protect them and protect ourselves .
Beginning a dialogue on pheasants -their role in protecting our mountains, their role as apex species warning others of danger. This is the goal of my presentation. The complete presentation is uploaded on slideshare.net. Here
is the link