Friday, November 02, 2007

Know your state bird, Sikkim tells people

Photos From Top- Blood pheasant, satyr tragopan and Himalayan monal

Gangtok, Oct. 31: The blood pheasant, and not the satyr tragopan or the Himalayan monal, is the state bird of Sikkim, the forest department has clarified in a bid to correct a widely held misconception.
Photographs of the satyr tragopan (Tragopan satyra), locally called “munal” and the Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus) are often depicted in books, magazines and posters, including some published by the Sikkim tourism department, as the state bird.
“The lack of awareness among people about the state’s wildlife species is leading to tragi-comic situations,” said Usha Ganguli-Lachungpa, a senior researcher of the Sikkim forest, wildlife management and environment department.
She clarified that the blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus), locally called “chilimey” in Nepali and “semo” in Bhutia is the state bird. It is found in the higher altitudes of Sikkim, mainly in protected areas like Khangchendzonga National Park and Biosphere, which is spread over North and West Sikkim.
Lachungpa said the word “blood” in the bird’s name comes from the red streaks on its chest, but some people unintentionally surmised that the more visible, red-coloured satyr tragopans must be the state bird. Consequently, the munal-monal confusion led to the Himalayan monal being wrongly elevated to the status of the state bird.
“This despite what is explained pictorially to every participant at the guide training programmes of the tourism department, Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim and the Sikkim Association of Adventure Tour Operators,” said Lachungpa.
She said the correct picture can be seen in the official logo of the Sikkim Ornithological Society, an NGO, and on the front cover of the forest department’s recent publication, Important Bird Areas of Sikkim: Priority Sites for Conservation.
The only bright spot in the whole controversy is that the schoolchildren who attended the Wildlife Week Quiz at the Himalayan Zoological Park in Bulbuley in October appeared to know their state bird.
Lachungpa added that the state government had identified 11 important bird areas a couple of years ago. The Sikkim Programme Office of WWF-India, too, is engaged with the state forest department in fieldwork to study blood pheasants (local name: chilimey), Himalayan monal (daanphey), satyr tragopan (munal), kalij pheasant (kalij) and the red junglefowl (luinchey).
“We hope that with increasing stress on eco-tourism and wildlife, we will all realise that there is much to learn, re-learn and un-learn,” Lachungpa said.