Distance learning: conservation across continents

Published: 17 September 2018

Distance learning: conservation across continents

 Conservationists from different sides of the globe are working together to save a rare jungle bird. Staff from Paignton Zoo Environmental Park and Viet Nature, a Vietnamese NGO, have been swapping tips and techniques on how to keep and rear Edward’s pheasant - a species that hasn’t been seen in the wild for nearly 20 years.

Three conservationists from Vietnam visited Paignton Zoo; Paignton Zoo Senior Head Keeper of Birds, Pete Smallbones, then accompanied them to Vietnam for a three-week visit to catch up with progress on the construction of aviaries to be used in the breeding of this shy bird with the shimmering dark blue feathers.

Paignton Zoo Curator of Birds Jo Gregson: “The three who came here are trained foresters, so they know the habitat but not the birds. They’ve taken research methods and husbandry skills back that will help them in their efforts to save the Edward’s pheasant. Ultimately, you want local people to take ownership of their projects - our aim is to assist them in the early stages.”

The Vietnamese conservationists worked alongside Paignton Zoo keepers, learning about pheasant care and how to catch up and ring birds safely. They had talks from other Zoo departments, including Education, Vets, Gardens and Field Conservation and Research, and met with representatives from the World Pheasant Association.

Meanwhile, 6,000 miles away in Vietnam, conservation NGO Viet Nature has built a project station near to the Knoc Trong forest. They are now building a small block of holding aviaries for the first breeding pairs of birds. Jo: “The design of the aviaries has been carefully considered by zoo experts. Peter will spend a few weeks working with the Vietnamese during construction, and will train staff based there on pheasant care.”

Paignton Zoo is working with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and Viet Nature to reintroduce the species to the forests from which it has been eradicated. Jo flew to Vietnam last year to discuss plans: “We’re a way off sending birds to Vietnam. Projects are slow to start while we make sure the birds have the very best chance of survival in the wild.

“There are a few Edward’s pheasants in Hanoi Zoo and they will be the first birds to be moved to the new holding pens at Knoc Trong. We hope that our work will help build a sound understanding of pheasant care which will continue to develop over time.”

Paignton Zoo is home to nine adult birds, four females and five males, and has successfully bred the species. Edwards’s pheasant (Lophura edwardsi) is listed as Critically Endangered and recorded as one of the world’s 100 most threatened species. It has not been seen in the wild since the year 2000. The species has suffered from deforestation, hunting and the use of defoliants during the Vietnam War.

 

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