In a first effort globally to reintroduce the vulnerable western tragopans into the wild, six captive-bred birds have been soft-released into a forest in Himachal Pradesh.
A brightly plumed bird endemic to northwest Himalaya, Western tragopan or Jujurana has an estimated global population of less than 3,500 individuals.
Six of these vulnerable pheasant species, which is also the state bird of Himachal, was raised in a pheasantry at Sarahan and was soft-released into the nearby Daranghati wildlife sanctuary, reported The Indian Express.
In a soft-release, which is a precursor to full release, the birds are shifted to the site of release and placed in temporary enclosures or soft pens. The process helps the birds to adapt to the area's climate and environment.
While the elevation of the breeding centre at Sarahan is around 2,300 metres, the birds have been soft-released into a site in the sanctuary around 3,200 metres above the sea level.
In the next few days, the six birds - two pairs and two chicks - are expected to be let out of the pens. Otherwise, they will be released during the upcoming wildlife week during which the state forest department will hold an official event to mark the release.
In order to help a researcher monitor the birds' location, movement and other parameters once they are out on their own in the wild, the birds are tagged with very high frequency (VHF) radio devices.
Of the seven different species of pheasants in the state, Western Tragopan is the most elusive one, wildlife officials said. Across the world, Sarahan pheasantry, or the Western Tragopan Conservation Breeding Centre, located at Sarahan in Shimla district is the only centre where the conservation breeding of the pheasant is being carried out, the wildlife wing of the state forest department said.
The Western tragopan is among the five species of birds from Himachal which were listed under species of high conservation concern by a report - 'State of India's Birds 2020' - released early this year.