Western tragopan population assessment in Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary, India

Lakshminarasimha R

Information deficiency pertaining to its population status and distribution is a major limitation for conserving the Vulnerable western tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus), an endemic montane pheasant occurring within a narrow distributional range in the north-western Himalayan region. The major threats faced by the species are habitat fragmentation, poaching and collection of minor forest products.

Western tragopan is one of the flagship species of the Himalaya and is the state-bird of Himachal Pradesh (HP), India, which is a stronghold for its population. The purpose of this study is to assess population status, spatial distribution and threats faced by the species in Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary (DWS), HP; a potential western tragopan hotspot.

The DWS area will be divided into 1 km2 sampling grids. A combination of camera-trapping, acoustical sampling and trail walks will be employed within these grids to determine species’ occupancy and abundance. The field data on anthropogenic pressures and information obtained from social surveys will be used to quantify threat levels.

The expected outcomes include population estimate, distribution pattern and threat levels in DWS, which should contribute to western tragopan conservation nationally. The methodological framework should help in the improvisation of pheasant surveys and establishment of a long-term pheasant monitoring program in HP.