Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, Qatar’s globally-recognised conservation organisation, has reaped yet another success by breeding Bulwer’s pheasant, classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Established by Sheikh Saoud bin Mohamed bin Ali al-Thani in central Qatar, Al Wabra has earlier been credited for the stellar conservation work on the Spix’s macaw, Beira antelope, Somali wild ass and the Birds of Paradise.
“Naturally occurring in the lower montane forests of Borneo, Indonesia, the Bulwer’s pheasants are extremely difficult to breed and have not successfully bred in several decades in captivity,” Al Wabra’s director Dr Tim Bouts told Gulf Times.
The efforts of the bird team have been rewarded by the hatching of two Bulwer’s pheasant chicks, a first for Al Wabra, and their successful rearing.
“Breeding behaviour was observed and afterwards the female laid three eggs,” Dr Bouts recalled. Once candling revealed that two eggs were fertile, they were moved to the incubation room just before hatching.
The chicks, both males, barely weighed 35 grams when hatched. Raj, one of the bird keepers, taught them to eat by pecking towards the food with a small paint brush.
“It was amazing to see how the chicks immediately followed this pecking movement and started taking the food off the floor,” he said.
When the chicks were old enough and could eat completely independently, they were moved into a heavily planted outside aviary.
The chicks have already started displaying towards each other.
Al Wabra is now awaiting the arrival of a donated female soon from Al Bustan Zoological Centre near Dhaid, Sharjah, in the UAE, to hopefully form a second breeding pair.
“This will hopefully be the beginning of successful breeding of Bulwer’s pheasant, as a vibrant captive breeding population is needed to bring attention to the conservation of this elusive species,” Dr Bouts added.
Al Wabra, which focuses on breeding and protecting threatened species, is non-commercial and not open to the public. A member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, it is considered the only hope for the survival of the Spix’s macaw, the most endangered parrot in the world.
Native to the Caatinga region (Curaca, Bahia) in Brazil, the species is extinct in the wild and as per statistics updated on November 1, 2012, just 79 were left in the world – all in captivity – with Al Wabra holding 60 (79%), comprising 24 males and 36 females.
With a far reaching vision of reintroducing the Spix’s macaw to the wild, Sheikh Saoud purchased in 2008 the 2,380 hectare Concordia Farm, in the Caatinga near the town of Curaca, where the species was last seen.
The farm was used as the field base for the Spix’s macaw recovery efforts in the 1990s and still boasts the tree nesting-hollow used by the last known wild pair back in the 1980s.