LIFE THREATENING : Beauty of the Birdking. The pheasant occupies a Privileged Position in China.

Inspiring numerous poems, painting and songs in ancient times. It is also believed to be linked to the mythical phoenix, which in Chinese legend was nicknamed the king of birds.

HAN LIANXIAN - an ornithologist at Southwest Forestry University in Kunming, Yunnan province, said : ''Many Chinese people have seen pheasants. However, few have witnessed China's native pheasant species - the green peafowl, which has incredibly beautiful tail feathers and is under top-level protection.''

Blue peafowls are commonly seen in zoos and parks, Han said. adding that as China only native pheasant, green peafowl [ Pavo muticus ] are bigger and have yellow cheeks and shiny green neck feathers.

However, the beauty of green peafowl has become its major threat. Males are hunted for their extravagant tail feathers. Eggs and chicks are also sought for illegal trade and some of the birds have been poisoned by farmland pesticides.

The population of the species has declined significantly throughout East Asia and the turn of the century and is now only reported in scattered locations in a few countries.

The green peafowl is among the most-threatened pheasants in the world. Its plight was highlighted in the International Union of Conservation of Nature's Pheasant Action Plan, in which it was listed as one of the priorities for Conservation.

There are an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 of the birds worldwide.

According to the Yunnan Forestry and Grassland Administration, there are 555 to 600 of the birds in the province.

Han, one of the country's top experts on birds, has worked in wilderness areas for decades but has only observed a green peafowl in the world once. Recalling the unexpected encounter he said the beautiful bird left a deep impression on him.  

In 2002, Has was working on field research at Xiaoheishan Provincial Nature Reserve in Longling county. He had just left the reserve forest station early in the morning and was walking along a forest path when he heard the cries of green peafowl.

''It was a male green peafowl, which is quick and alert. I was stunned by its bluish-green tail feathers, which shone like jade in the sunlight. It was at that moment that you knew it was the King of Birds.

China is stepping up efforts to boost the endangered green peafowl population by providing the birds with a natural breeding grounds in Yunnan. In recent years local authorities, scientific institutions and public-welfare organizations have strengthened efforts to revive the species.

The World Students Society thanks author Yang Wanli and LI Yingqing.


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