It's been a funny old week in some respects as I've been working from home, blighted by one of the more curious viruses I've ever had the misfortune to acquire. So while feeling predominately rubbish, I've been endeavouring to still write some news and consequently had a fascinating conversation with John Corder, the vice-president of the World Pheasant Association (WPA). On Cage & Aviary Birds, as we increasingly write more and more news about the wider bird world and we encourage breeders to show in Europe, we sometimes forget the phenomenal avicultural expertise that exists in this country and how it is helping to sustain biodiversity and the greater avian world.
This came home to me while talking to John, who was explaining to me the process whereby the WPA and its members were engaged in a galliforme rescue mission in northern India. You'll see the story in this week's magazine – and one of John's marvelous photos – of the birds that have been reared in the UK and this week were sent out to India to try to replenish dwindling stocks in the wild of the high Himalayas. His tale was fascinating as he described the failure of the first batch of birds sent, when a negligent courier left them on Singapore airport runway for six hours and they died of dehydration, and how this next batch will be cared for to a much greater degree. But what occurred to me was how remarkable it was that British birdkeeping skills were needed all those thousands of miles away. He said the Indians had been trying for years to breed satyr tragopans and Temminck’s but failed and had persisted in trying to breed with birds captured in the wild. He said the wild birds just would not respond normally to captivity and all died very quickly.
So WPA members rallied to the call and very soon a whole programme was put in place, with John travelling to India to train the keepers at Darjeeling Zoo in how to breed a species endemic to their own country, and various WPA members at home got on with breeding tragopans. He said he's been out three times and is very hopeful that the new batch of birds and the keepers' newly acquired skills will enable the programme to one day begin to put birds into the wild. It's a remarkable tale of Scottish Highland to Indian Himalayas for these tragopans but illustrates, as Gerald Durrell always used to say, we can save every species.
Hasta la vista...