By Tennoson Pheiray for The Naga Republic
The endangered species Blyth’s Tragopan (Tragopan Blythii) has been sighted at Shirui after a long time. Blyth’s tragopan pheasant is the largest of the genus Tragopan.
Shirui Village is located at a distance of 97 km from Imphal and about 18 km from Ukhrul Headquarter. To the west of the village lies Ukhrul, to its east is Mapum, to the north is Lunghar and Sihai to its north east. Shirui is a home to rare and special species of the lily known as Shirui Lily or Kashong Timrawon, the state flower of Manipur.
The sighting of Blyth’s Tragopan locally known as “Rikshira Khangaowa” recently at Ron-ngai of Shirui has once again raised the issue of its protection and conservation.
Image of a Blyth’s Tragopan (Photo: Tennoson Pheiray )
Tragopan is found in dense undergrowth of evergreen forests at altitudes not less than 1700 meter. It feeds on fresh leaves, seeds, acorns, berries, bamboo shoots, and insects. The local named it “Khangaowa” because of its very loud ‘ngao ngao’ sound it makes.
The size of Tragopan male is 67-70 cm and female is 59 cm. The adult male, largest of all Tragopans, is a brilliantly colored over-sized pheasant. Iris brown, horns light blue, legs pinkish brown. The bare face skin is bright yellow, a black band extends from the base of the bill to the crown and a broad black band extends behind the eye.
The female Tragopan is similar to the Satyr hen, but is larger and paler. Overall dark brown with black, buff and white mottling.
Blyth’s Tragopan starts mating in April and continues well into May. The males in order to attract the females enter into flamboyant displays. After a female becomes fertilised, she can lay up to two to five eggs. The incubation period for eggs lasts for about a month. After hatching, the offspring has a similar appearance to the female hen. The male tragopans acquire red on their neck during the first spring moult. During the second year of life, full adult plumage is attained in the tragopan.
Forest Department and wildlife lovers of the Manipur State in 2010-11 had announced an award of Rs 50,000/- (Rupees fifty thousand) on one live pair of Nongins. This kind of promotion will go a long way in conserving Blyth’s Tragopan.
Hunting and trapping of Tragopan as delicacy by the locals and neighbouring villages have greatly contributed in reducing the population of the species in Shirui Range.
Haphazard causing of forest fire in the Shirui Range are also significant threats. The construction of PMGSY Road from Shirui to Mapum has a significant effect on the species because it takes away the habitat that the bird has. The population of the tragopan is declining because of these PMGSY Road which is also dividing up the populations into smaller sub-populations due to fragmentation.
The presence of the birds in few numbers at different places with huge distance has narrowed the potentials for genetic variation which is important for increasing their population.
Deforestation is a major factor in the decreasing population of Tragopan blythii, as the forests are the main source of food. By removing this source, the pheasants are left with little or no food to consume.
Forest and Wildlife Department of Manipur can come out with a policy to protect and conserve the endangered species in collaboration with the locals.