'Passion for photography aids understanding of western tragopan habitat in the Himalayas'

‘Passion for photography aids understanding of western tragopan habitat in the Himalayas’

He is Vinay Kumar Singh, seconded to the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a forest ranger.

His two extensive documentaries on western tragopans, included in the GHNP, help park authorities and scientists determine where this species occurs, how they interact with their environment, and potential threats to them.

“The documentation can help researchers improve knowledge about this elusive species, which is difficult to see because they live in the higher parts of the Himalayas,” Kumar, who likes to film wildlife while performing the task, told IANS.

He traversed rugged and inaccessible areas of the Sainj Valley several times by staying separated from home and family for weeks on end for wildlife photography.

One of his documentaries, ‘Story of the Western Tragopan’, was selected by the jury last month for the Nature in Focus Films Award in the Emerging Talent (Natural History) category.

Kumar said he had the opportunity to continuously visit the Sainj valley, the habitat of the western tragopan, and some unexplored areas of the GHNP in recent years.

“During my shift I had the opportunity to encounter rare creatures. I managed to capture some of them on my camera.”

Known for its considerable size of 1,171 square kilometers, the park is untouched by any road network and has four valleys: Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwa Nal and Parvati.

For him, seeing them in their natural habitat is a lifetime experience.

“Due to the extremely rugged topography, it is not easy to spot wildlife in nature, as some mammals habitat are high rock cliffs, while some are found in dense forests. I continue to trek inland from the GHNP along with Khem Raj, who lives in the eco-zone of the national park and is interested in seeing wildlife in forests, this way we have been able to spot many species in the GHNP together,” a delighted Kumar told IANS.

Both Kumar and Khem Raj have photographed about 150 of the GHNP’s 209 bird species.

The bird that most caught their attention was the western tragopan, the least studied bird in the world due to the rugged topography of its habitat and being a shy bird.

Kumar said spotting the western tragopan in nature is not easy as its population is naturally less compared to other bird species.

“Here and there you can see Himalayan monal flying. Other pheasant species like koklass, white-crested kalij and cheer can also be heard and seen in the forest, but not the western tragopan which lives in a special habitat compared to all of these. We need to find special places where it lives,” he said.

Human disturbance during the western tragopan’s breeding season is one of the major threats to the western tragopan, identified by their black plumage with white spots and a colorful head.

In the local language, the western tragopan is called Jujurana or king of the birds. It is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh and belongs to the Phasianidae family, which also includes the peafowl and red junglefowl.

Wildlife experts attribute the western tragopan’s demise to habitat degradation, hunting, and extensive grazing of the forest by livestock.

The Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Sarahan in Shimla District, and the Great Himalayan National Park are the potential western tragopan habitats.

According to the 2022 survey conducted by the national park authorities, the population of the western tragopan is increasing.

They make an annual inventory of the GHNP during the breeding season (April-May).

It inhabits upper temperate forests between 2,400 and 3,600 m in summer, and in winter in dense coniferous and deciduous forest between 2,000 and 2,800 m elevations.

Call counts and line transects are used to assess current abundances and gather information about the characteristics of this species in the wild. Tragopan males started breeding in late April and continued through May.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Nishant Mandhotra, who is in charge of GHNP, told IANS that the presence of the western tragopan is now more clearly felt in the national park with increasing numbers, and so are its sightings.

He said the density of western tragopan in the park was four birds per station in last year’s census. Eighteen stations in the Tirthan, Sainj and Jiwa Nal ranges were shortlisted for call pick up.

The GHNP, registered in 1999, is home to 209 bird species.

One of the richest biodiversity sites in the Western Himalayas, the park supports the snow leopard, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan brown and black bear, Himalayan blue sheep, Asian ibex, red fox, weasel, and yellow-throated marten.

Small mammals include the gray shrew, a small mouse-like mammal with a long snout, the royal mountain mouse, the Indian pika, the giant Indian flying squirrel, the porcupine and the Himalayan civet, in addition to nine amphibians and 125 insects.

disclaimer: This story was automatically put together by a computer program and was not created or edited by FreshersLIVE.Publisher : IANS Media

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