Extremely Rare Bird Western Tragopan Spotted In Kashmir

Srinagar– An acclaimed bird photographer from Bangalore has captured Western Tragopan—a globally threatened species of birds in the Kashmir Himalayas, much to the excitement of bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The highly elusive bird Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus) is an extremely rare and vulnerable bird in the world.

The bird was captured by Jainy Maria and Mudasir Manzoor, a Wildlife Guide and photographer, in a local wildlife sanctuary after 10 days of intense search, an official of wildlife department told Kashmir Observer.

Western tragopan is a medium-sized brightly plumed pheasant found along the western Himalayas from northwestern Pakistan through Jammu and Kashmir into Himachal Pradesh and possibly the western parts of Uttarakhand.

“The bird is not critically endangered but globally threatened,” Wildlife Warden, Shopian division, Intisar Suhail told Kashmir Observer.

The current population, according to a study, of the species is reported to be between 2500 and 3500 individuals, down from around 5,000 estimated in earlier studies.

However, the bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts have expressed their concern fearing poaching of the bird.

“We haven’t shared the location of the bird owing to the poaching threats,” said Mudasir Maqbool, who was accompanying Maria.

Kashmir Birdwatch, a local bird-watching club in the valley said that it is the first pictorial evidence of the western tragopan in the valley.

“Delighted to share the first pictorial evidence of the western tragopan from Jammu and Kashmir,” a post by the group noted.

Suhail, who is also one of the co-founders of Kashmir Birdwatch, said that it is a rare sighting but the bird was already here.

“We knew the bird was here but had no photographic evidence so its presence is now confirmed,” Suhail said, adding “we can’t share the location of the bird as the poacher will go after it,”

The significance of the Tragopan, Suhail said, is that the bird is very colourful and glamorous. “It is a very shy bird who doesn’t come out usually and is found in western Himalayas only” he added.

Western Himalayas are spread to Pakistan and northern India which includes Kashmir.

An official from the wildlife department told Kashmir Observer that the department was planning for a long time to get photographic evidence of the bird and they did it finally with the help of Jainy Maria.

According to a study conducted by a group of scientists and wildlife experts, there is an urgent need to plan long-term monitoring and initiate appropriate measures to conserve the species.

The study titled as “Distribution and Conservation Status of the Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus in Jammu and Kashmir, India” reveals that the major reasons for its global decline are habitat degradation is livestock grazing, fuel wood collection, disturbance by grazers and mushroom collectors, hunting and trapping for meat.

The study further noted that in J&K, historically, western tragopan has been reported from Rampur, Uri, Keran and Lolab areas, and also the southern slopes of the Pir Panjal Range.

Records of western tragopan have also been obtained from Kishtwar (part of which is now the Kishtwar National Park (NP), Padder and Bhaderwah, which fall in the Chenab Valley of the UT.

The study also noted that J&K is one of the strongholds for the species.

“The modelling of habitat also showed that there is a reasonably good po- tential tragopan habitat in the state, although its presence needs to be confirmed through field surveys.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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