Lophura edwardsi

A male Edwards's Pheasant
A male Edwards’s Pheasant

Justification

This pheasant remains classified as Critically Endangered following revisions of its taxonomic limits; because the lack of recent records suggest that the remaining wild population is likely to be extremely small and severely fragmented, with all subpopulations tiny. Declines have been driven by high levels of hunting pressure and lowland forest deterioration.

Further surveys are urgently needed to identify and protect any remaining populations.

Taxonomic source(s)

del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomy

Being named after the French ornithologist Alphonse Milne-Edwards, Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi was first described in 1896. 28 years later, Imperial Pheasant Lophura imperialis was described from a live pair obtained in Quang Binh province (Delacour & Jabouille, 1925). However, this Lophura later was proved to be a hybrid between Edwards’s Pheasant L. edwardsi and Silver Pheasant L. nycthemera following Rasmussen (1998), Garson (2001), BirdLife International (2001) and Hennache et al. (2003).

In 1964, another Lophura, Vietnamese Pheasant Lophura hatinhensis, was discovered (Vo Quy 1975). The quantity of Vietnamese Pheasant reported went up quickly, but then suddenly dropped and after 1999, no individual have been observed (BirdLife International 2001). Nonetheless, it has been recently confirmed to be an inbred morph of L.edwardsi (Hennache et al. 2012). As a result, of all 3 types of Lophura, Edwards’s Pheasant is the only one that is now recognized and included in the IUCN Red List. All previous records of Vietnamese Pheasant are now treated as evidence of Edwards’s Pheasant.

Identification

58-­65 cm. Blue­black pheasant (male) with short, shaggy white crest and red facial skin. Female uniform cold greyish­brown with warmer tinged wings and blackish tail with brown central feathers. Juvenile (both sexes) resembles female but females may have black spots/bars on mantle, scapulars and wing­coverts, males show patches of adult plumage. Alarm call is low guttural uk uk uk uk uk.

Distribution and population

Lophura edwardsi is endemic to central Vietnam. Known historically from four provinces (Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue), it was described as locally fairly common. There were no confirmed records of its typical morph between 1930 and 1996,  but between 1964 and 1995, there were at least 31 individuals of the inbred morph recorded in Ke Go and Khe Net, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces. In 1996, one typical L.edwardsi was observed near Phong My Commune, Thua Thien Hue, and Huong Hiep commune, Quang Tri (Le Trong Trai et al. 1999). Since then, several other individuals were recorded in Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue until the last one in 2000. In 2009 a possible female was recorded near Hai Van Pass, but there are doubts about the identification (A. Hennache in litt. 2012). In 2011 dedicated camera­trap surveys for the species in two relatively undisturbed sites, Khe Nuoc Trong Watershed Protection Forest, Quang Binh and Dakrong Nature Reserve, Quang Tri failed to record the species (Le Trong Trai in litt. 2012). The occurrence of birds showing inbred characteristics since the 1960s, and the lack of any recent records of typical is an indication that remaining populations are extremely small, fragmented and declining.

The captive population of Edwards’s Pheasant is highly inbred, and occasionally produces individuals phenotypically identifiable as Vietnamese Pheasant (Hennache et al. 2012). This suggests that the occurrence of Vietnamese Pheasant in the wild indicates severe inbreeding resulting from the isolation of tiny subpopulations (Hennache & Ottaviani 2005).

Ecology

It was said to inhabit exceedingly damp mountain forests up to an estimated 600 m, favouring thick underbrush and lianas. However, all early collecting localities were in the forested level lowlands, and there is no evidence that it can live above 300 m. It is most abundant in areas with thick undergrowth and liana covered hillsides (N. Brickle in litt. 2004). Records in the 1990s came from lowland areas which have been selectively logged (N. Brickle in litt. 2004).

Threats

Its historical range is now almost completely denuded of primary forest through a combination of herbicide spraying during the Vietnam war, logging and clearance for agriculture. The last forest areas known to support the species are subject to continuing degradation by wood­cutters. Small patches of very humid forest embedded in a matrix of unsuitable forest are only likely to maintain their high humidity values when large areas of forest remain intact. Forest fragmentation in the hills above the now deforested coastal plain has been more intense than forest loss, but is likely to have caused an overall drying of the forest which might have rendered formerly suitable patches of forest unsuitable (S. Mahood in litt. 2012).

Whilst the species has been recorded in degraded habitats, it is uncertain whether the species is able to persist in such conditions in the long term (W. Duckworth in litt. 2012). Hunting pressure from various forest product collectors poses a major threat and the species may be affected by indiscriminate snaring (N. Brickle in litt. 2004). Although galliformes can withstand extremely high levels of trapping (Brickle et al. 2008), they can be locally eliminated. Because trapping is indiscriminate and targeted at more resilient species of ground dwelling birds such as Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus, it still continues when numbers of other species such as Edwards’s Pheasant are severely reduced and uneconomically viable as a single species harvest. Through this mechanism populations can be trapped to local extinction (BirdLife International 2001).

Conservation Actions Underway

CITES Appendix I.

Surveys for the species were conducted in 1988, 1991 and 2011. The localities from which the most recent records derive have been incorporated within Phong Dien Nature Reserve and Dakrong Nature Reserve, for which a management feasibility study has been completed. A Site Support Group has been established for Dakrong IBA (Quang Tri province). Bach Ma National Park lies within the historical range of the species, and a poster campaign to obtain local information was conducted there in 1996, although as yet there have been no confirmed records from this park. In December 2003, the captive population numbered 1,033 individuals (A. Hennache in litt. 2004). The maternal line has been screened and hybrids purged from the captive stock (A. Hennache in litt. 2004).

Since 2010, alarmed by the long paucity of L. ewardsi recording in the wild, efforts have been accelerated to reassess its conservation status and save it from extinction in the wild. Intensive camera trap surveys have been carried out to search for the species in its most suitable remaining habitats in Quang Binh and Quang Tri provinces, and from 2015 will expand to Thua Thien Hue province.

In mid-2014, Viet Nature Conservation Centre – a Vietnamese NGO transformed from BirdLife Vietnam Programme – launched an initiative for long term protection of Khe Nuoc Trong Forest (Truong Son IBA), the largest relatively least disturbed block of moist lowland evergreen forest in the historical range of Edwards’s Pheasant. This initiative includes about 800 ha of moist lowland evergreen forest, at elevations below 300 m, secured under a 30-year forest environmental lease, which is potentially suitable for the reintroduction of Edwards’s Pheasant, when necessary.

Also in 2014, an Ewards’s Pheasant Conservation Workshop was held in Quang Tri province, Vietnam under the co-orgnisation of Viet Nature Conservation Centre, Quang Tri FPD and Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources. The workshop stressed out the importance of urgent conservation actions for Edwards’s Pheasant, updated the stakeholders with current conservation status and actions, and speeded up the finalization of the Edwards’s Pheasant conservation strategy. Simultaneously, the VN Edwards’s Pheasant Working Group was also created with initial members coming from national authorities, local forest enforcement agencies (FPD), national NGOs, research institutions and individual experts.

Conservation Actions Proposed

Encourage the protection and management of the known key sites for Edwards’s Pheasants, which are (from North to South) Ke Go – Khe Net, Khe Nuoc Trong – Bac Huong Hoa, and Dakrong – Phong Dien;

Develop a conservation breeding programme for scientific research and preparing a population for reinforcement or reintroduction when necessary;

Improve the management of captive population;

Conduct more surveys in search for Edwards’s Pheasant remaining wild population, if any;

Enhance knowledge on its basic ecology, habitat requirements, and distribution, in connection with the above conservation breeding programme;

Conduct feasibility studies on the need, site preparedness and availability of suitable birds for reinforcement or reintroduction (by 2020);

Coordinate and mobilise resources for the implementation of the action plan.

References

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Brickle, N.W., Duckworth, J.W., Tordoff, A.W., Poole, C.M., Timmins, R. and McGowan, P.J.K. 2008. The status and conservation of Galliformes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Biodiversity and Conservation 17(6): 1393­1427.

Delacour, J and Jabouille, P. (1925) On the birds of Quang-tri, Central Annam; with notes on others from other parts of French Indo-China. Ibis (12)1: 209–260.

Ciarpaglini, P. and Hennache, A. (1995) Delacour’s expeditions to Vietnam from which the captive stock of Edward’s pheasant originated. Ann. Rev. WPA 1993/1994: 113–119.

Hennache, A. & Ottaviani, M. (2005). Monograph pheasants, Volume 1, 357 pages. WPA France editions, Clères, France

Hennache, A., Mahood, S. P., Eames, J.C., Randi, E. 2012. Lophura hatinhensis is an invalid taxon. Forktail 28: 129­135.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Keane, A.M.; Garson, P.J.; McGowan, P.J. K. in press. Pheasants: status survey and conservation action plan 2005­2009. IUCN and WPA, Gland, Switzerland.

Le Trong Trai; Richardson, W. J.; Le Van Cham; Tran Hieu Minh; Tran Quang Ngoc; Nguyen Van Sang; Monastryskii, A. L.; Eames, J. C. 1999. A feasibility study for the establishment of Phong Dien (Thua Thien Hue Province and) Dakrong (Quang Tri Province) Nature Reserves, Vietnam. BirdLife International Vietnam Programme, Hanoi.

McGowan, P. J. K.; Carroll, J.; Ellis, S. 1994. Galliform Conservation Assessment.

BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Lophura edwardsi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds.

Rasmussen, P. C. (1998f). Is the imperial pheasant Lophura imperialis a hybrid? Work in progress and a call for information. Tragopan 9: 8–10.