Coordinated by Viet Nature, the Vietnam Edwards’s Pheasant Working Group (VN-EPWG) was established “To secure, maintain and restore the genetic resources and safe, suitable habitat for a long term persistence of Edwards’s Pheasant in the wild.”
The Edwards’s Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi) is a Critically Endangered bird species and endemic to the Central region of Vietnam. It is estimated that the remaining population ranges from 50-249 individuals. Wild populations are extremely small, fragmented, declining and may even be extinct.
Root causes for the rarity of Edwards’s Pheasant are believed to be intensive indiscriminate hunting coupled with fragmentation, degradation and loss of suitable habitat (due to human-induced changes, climate change and possibly the species’ subtle habitat requirements).
Recognising the urgent need for conservation action towards the persistence of Edwards’s Pheasant in the wild, the VN-EPWG was established in the Edwards’s Pheasant Conservation Workshop in Quang Tri, Vietnam on 9th July 2014.
The VN-EPWG consists of managers of key sites within Edwards’s Pheasant’s historical range, local forest law enforcement agencies (Forest Protection Departments - FPDs), national NGOs, research institutions and individual experts. The VN-EPWG not only act as an official technical advisory and coordination mechanism for the conservation of the Edwards’s Pheasant, but its members are also on-the-ground implementers. The working group is also a platform for its members and interested parties to exchange information, and to conduct collaboration among local stakeholders, conservation NGOs and scientific bodies.
The team is coordinated by Viet Nature Conservation Centre – a Vietnamese NGO reconstituted from BirdLife Vietnam Programme from 2013 – an organisation with a strong scientific base and a core mission of bird and biodiversity conservation. Viet Nature voluntarily supports the VN-EPWG’s work, enhancing the group’s profile and effectiveness while also creating linkages between the VN-EPWG and the international Edwards’s Pheasant conservation community.
What We Do
Development of the first Edwards’s Pheasant Conservation Action Plan 2015-2020, with vision to 2030
The first milestone output of the VN-EPWG is the first Action Plan for the conservation of the species for the period 2015-2020, with vision to 2030, which identifies activities to be implemented in the coming 5 years by VN-EPWG and its partners to contribute to realizing the goal of having a sustainable Edwards’s Pheasant population in the wild by 2030.
As it is widely agreed that time is running out for this species and its habitat, ‘business as usual’ is no longer working. Highest priority should be given to securing its remaining suitable habitat and improving the management of Edwards’s Pheasant’s gene pool (in the captive population) to prepare for the worst situation (i.e. when reinforcement or reintroduction is needed), while continued efforts should be made to clarify its status in the wild and basic ecology.
A conservation breeding programme in Vietnam should start as soon as resource permits to learn more about Edwards’s Pheasant ecology in (semi-) natural environment and to produce best birds for reinforcement and/or reintroduction when deemed necessary. Thus there are four priority programmes in the first Edwards’s Pheasant Action Plan, namely Site Protection and Management, Conservation Breeding, Research, and Coordination and Resource Mobilization, all of which need to be implemented in parallel to support one another.
Currently, the Edwards’s Pheasant Action Plan 2015-2020 has been officially endorsed or supported by 12 members and partners, a list of which is found here.
Researching the viability of captive population
In order to gain a better insight in the genetic pureness and variation within the captive Edwards’s Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi) population, 60 genetic samples will be investigated by BioGenomics (KULeuven).
Three series of samples were taken and according to the studbook recordings 60 samples were selected:
- 20 from the Edwards' Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi)
- 20 from the Vietnamese Pheasant (Lophura hatinhensis)
- 20 from Swinhoe's Pheasant (Lophura swinhoi)
Birds were selected both from Zoo institutions and private breeders in order to have a complete overview of the captive population.
The results will aid in the selection of a sufficient number of "neo-founders" to start an ex situ population that will replace the old EEP for this critically endangered species.
Towards a Conservation Breeding Programme
The captive collection of Edwards’s Pheasant may have derived from a very small founder population (c.28 individuals exported to Europe nearly 90 years ago) with the supplement of only one wild male to Hanoi Zoo ever since.
In order to perpetuate the very valuable genes of this wild male to prepare for a conservation breeding programme, with the support of EAZA Galliformes Taxon Advisory Group and World Pheasant Association, a group of 1 male and 3 female Edwards’s Pheasants was sent to Hanoi Zoo to be paired with the offspring of a wild-caught male there. On 27th May 2015, the group from Prague Zoo, Czech Republic, arrived safely in Hanoi. The pheasants are being cared for by experienced staff in Hanoi Zoo and would mate with the existing ones once they are ready.
Searching for the Edwards’s Pheasant in the wild using camera traps
Since 2011, several organizations have been actively looking for Edwards’s Pheasant on the ground, including BirdLife International Vietnam Programme (up to end of 2012), Viet Nature Conservation Centre (from 2013), World Pheasant Association, Quang Tri Centre for Education and Consultancy on Agriculture and Rural Development, etc. At the same time, some other camera trapping activities, not specifically targeting Edwards’s Pheasant, were also carried out at sites within Edwards’s Pheasant ‘s distribution range.
Up to now, camera trapping were carried out at Khe Nuoc Trong, Bac Huong Hoa, Dakrong and Ke Go Nature Reserves at different extent, and tens of thousands of photos with wildlife (over 65 species) have been obtained. However, no Edwards’s Pheasant in the wild has been photographed.
This programme is on-going.
Protection and management of remaining suitable habitats for Edwards’s Pheasant
“Site protection and management” is one of the four priority programmes identified in the first Action Plan for this species. While hunting is likely the biggest threat to the survival of this species (and other species in Vietnam), by protecting known key sites for Edwards’s Pheasant aiming at complete cessation of hunting and other disturbances at these sites, we are actively creating/restoring strongholds for its persistence in the wild and prepare for the worst case, where reinforcement or reintroduction might be needed.
Key sites, where Edwards’s Pheasant were historically recorded, include Ke Go Nature Reserve; Khe Nuoc Trong proposed Nature Reserve, Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserve, Dakrong Nature Reserve, Phong Dien Nature Reserve and Bach Ma National Park. Most of these protected areas are under-resourced and lack capacity for effective law enforcement, species research and management. Therefore, funding for site management and protection shall be and their partners shall be actively mobilized by each member of VN-EPWG and, when opportunities arise, by VN-EPWG as a team and relevant partners.
Since 2012, Viet Nature actively developed and in 2014 officially launched an initiative for long term protection of Khe Nuoc Trong forest – a relatively least disturbed lowland evergreen forest in South-western Quang Binh province in Central Vietnam – on nature reserve principles. This initiative includes 768 ha of moist lowland evergreen forest, at elevations below 300 metres above sea level, secured under a 30-year (2015-2045) forest environmental lease funded by BirdLife International/Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and a joint project of Viet Nature and IUCN NL/SPN, sponsored by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. This leased area is potentially suitable for the reintroduction of Edwards’s Pheasant, when deemed necessary.
Where We Work
Institutional members of the VN-EPWG:
• Quang Binh provincial Forest Protection Department
• Quang Tri provincial Forest Protection Department
• Thua Thien – Hue provincial Forest Protection Department
• Ke Go Nature Reserve, Ha Tinh province, Vietnam
• Khe Nuoc Trong proposed Nature Reserve, Quang Binh province, Vietnam
• Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserve, Quang Tri province, Vietnam
• Darkrong Nature Reserve, Quang Tri province, Vietnam
• Phong Dien Nature Reserve, Thua Thien – Hue province, Vietnam
• Bach Ma National Park, Thua Thien – Hue province, Vietnam
• Hanoi Zoo, Vietnam
• Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Vietnam
• Viet Nature Conservation Centre
Other supporters (listed in alphabetical order):
• BirdLife International
• European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Galliformes Taxon Advisory Group
• IUCN Netherlands/”Small grants for the Purchase of Nature” programme (IUCN NL/SPN)
• IUCN/SSC Galliformes Specialist Group
• World Pheasant Association
• World Land Trust
Featured image: Ariel Jacken