Archived 2012-2013 topics: Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi): uplist to Endangered?

BirdLife species factsheet for Cheer Pheasant Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichi occurs in the western Himalayas from north Pakistan, through Kashmir into Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, India, and east to central Nepal. It is currently classified as Vulnerable under criterion C2a(i) of the IUCN Red List based on its small, naturally fragmented population (residing in small patches of successional grassland) and continuing population decline caused by human population pressure, grazing pressure from livestock, hunting and changing patterns of land-use. It is a well-studied species but due to the unique topography of Cheer habitats, as well as lack of suitable field methods and statistical techniques, all the earlier population studies have either grossly overestimated or underestimated Cheer numbers. Therefore, all the earlier reported Cheer densities are at best only indicative and must be treated as such (Rajiv Kalsi in litt. 2010). Many subpopulations are thought to number fewer than 10 individuals, living in small pockets of suitable habitat. In Pakistan, it may now only persist in the Jhelum Valley. In India, it has declined, with most known populations now confined to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The area in and around Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary appears to be important with densities of 24 pairs/km2 recorded during 1983 and recent reports confirming the notion that a sizeable population remains (Subedi 2003). The population in the Kai-i-nag area of Kashmir is also thought to be sizeable (R. Kaul in litt. 2007). In Nepal, it appears to be localised, occurring from the Baitadi district in the west, east to the Kali Gandaki River. The most important area in the country is Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2012). Surveys conducted here in 1981 and 2003 revealed a slight decline, with a corrected population estimate of 127-212 birds in the valley, but this trend was not statistically significant (Subedi 2003). Areas surrounding Dhorpatan have also been found to support populations at similar densities of 5-10 birds/km2 with corrected population estimates of 56-71 individuals in the Bobang area, 19-22 individuals in Adlikari area and 61-127 individuals in the Muri area, all just outside the reserve (Singh et al. 2006). Small populations were identified at Trikuta and within Rara National Park in 2005 and local reports during that survey indicated that the species occurs more widely within Mugu and Jumla districts (Bhudathapa 2006). Surveys in Rara National Park in 2006 and 2008 indicate that the population there is no longer viable, while anecdotal evidence from local shepherds suggests that the species is in decline (Singh 2009) and visiting birdwatchers are finding it more difficult to locate the species (C. Inskipp in litt. 2009). Apparent declines at Ghansa suggest it may have declined overall in Nepal, but the level of threat remains low in parts of its range (Acharya and Thapa 2003); the total Nepalese population is thought likely to number fewer than 1,500 individuals (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2012). The total world population was previously estimated to number 4,000-6,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 2,700-4,000 mature individuals (R. Kaul in litt. 2007), in a total area of 27,500 km2. M.S. Bisht (pers. comm. 2010) states that it could be more, as this species is difficult to estimate because of its shy habits and occurrence in many inaccessible areas, no intensive study being made so far along whole distributional limits, and all previous reports being based either on a single sighting or survey of small areas for a few days only. However, recent surveys by R. Kalsi (pers. comm. 2010) of the previously surveyed sites in Himachal Pradesh showed that Cheer Pheasant populations have declined considerably, and they have disappeared altogether from some sites. There has been considerable decline in Chail and Majathal WLSs (both in Himachal), which were considered strongholds of the species and it is feared that the same condition prevails in Uttarakhand. Therefore, present population could be 3,000–4,000 individuals in the wild (R. Kalsi pers. comm. 2010), implying <2,500 mature individuals. If these estimates are confirmed, the Cheer Pheasant would qualify as Endangered under criterion C2a(i) of the IUCN Red List, based on a population of <2,500 mature individuals, if all subpopulations were estimated to number ≤250 mature individuals and a continuing population decline could be inferred due to hunting and disturbance within its specialised habitat. Comments on the total population size, size of the largest subpopulation and likely population trends of this species, would be welcomed. References: Acharya, B. and Thapa, S. (2003) Preliminary survey of Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi) in lower Kaligandaki valley, Mustang. Singh, P. B., Paudel, L. and Sharma, S. (2006) Survey of cheer pheasant Catreus wallichi in and around Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Western Nepal. Subedi, P. (2003) Status and distribution of Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi) in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Nepal. EDIT 8/8/2013: The attached summary of Cheer Pheasant status in Himachal Pradesh, India, has been provided by Sat Pal Phiman: Cheer Pheasant in Himachal Pradesh – Sat Pal Dhiman EDIT 8/8/2013: The attached map and table show the locations and give results of recent Cheer pheasant surveys carried out by Naeem Awan, Regional Co-ordinator Kashmir, WWF Pakistan. Cheer Pheasant survey results Kashmir

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14 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi): uplist to Endangered?

  1. Virat Jolli says:

    In my opinion, Cheer Pheasant which is currently classified as Vulnerable, should definitely uplist to Endangered. In recent studies conducted in upper Beas Valley, Himachal Pradesh (India) has shown that Cheer is sensitive to human disturbance (Jolli et. al., 2011; Jolli & Pandit, 2011 b) and construction of large scale River Valley projects further deteriorated remaining habitats of Cheer in the Valley (Jolli & Pandit 2011 a). There remaining population in the Valley is scattered and confined to >2000 m altitude (Jolli et al., 2011). The study area so far is considered as a one of the most important stronghold for Cheer. Thus, there are evidences that their sub-population in Western Himalaya is not in good shape. Therefore, it need to be uplisted to Endangered.

    Jolli, V., A. Srivastav, and S. Thakur. 2011. Patch occupancy for cheer pheasant Catreus wallichii in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area. International Journal of Galliformes Conservation 2: 74–81.
    Jolli, V., and M.K. Pandit. 2011 a. Monitoring Pheasants (Phasianidae) in the Western Himalayas to measure the impact of hydro electric projects. The Ring 33 no. 1-2: 37-46.

    Jolli, V., & Pandit, M. 2011 b. Influence of Human Disturbance on the Abundance of Himalayan Pheasant (Aves, Galliformes) in the Temperate Forest of Western Himalaya, India. 45(6): 523-530.

  2. In Pakistan, Cheer was found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir but recently it is found in Azad Kashmir only with local population at continuous decline. Once it was surviving in Jhelum Valley , Machiara National Park and Salkhala Game Reserve . In most recent surveys Awan et al (2012) found no evidences of its survival in and around Salkhala Game Reserve while having no authentic information of its presence in Machiara. Similarly Cheer has also been found on decline in Jhelum valley ( Awan 2011), the only site with major surviving Population in Pakistan. The remaining population is under high anthropogenic pressure which is evident that no Cheer has been recorded from any survey plot in Gari Doppata zone of Jhelum Valley which previously holds a reasonable population of Cheer (Awan 2011). So in my opinion, it must be uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered category.
    AWAN, M.N. (2011) Monitoring and conservation of Cheer Pheasant in Jhelum Catchments, Pakistan. Unpublished final report submitted to the Rufford Small Grants Foundation, UK.
    AWAN, M.N, ALI, H & LEE, D.C. (2012) An annotated checklist of birds and conservation issues in Salkhala Game Reserve, an isolated Important Bird Area in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Forktail 28: 38-43.

  3. Iain McCausland says:

    In March 2010 I sighted a pair of Cheer Pheasant in Langtang National Park (roughly 100 kms east of the Kali Gandaki valley) at an approximate elevation of 10,000 feet in pine forest (Chir pine)? above Shin Gompa.
    I later mentioned my sighting to Hem Subedi and Basu Bidari well respected local ornithologists from Mowgli’s Eco-Adventure Tours of Chitwan. This was NOT the first time they had heard of Cheer Pheasant in Langtang.
    Should anyone be interested in surveying the area I would be only too happy to help out.

  4. Rajiv Kalsi says:

    The uplisting of Cheer pheasant to the Endangered category is justified considering the threats faced by the small and scattered populations of the species throughout its range. Many cheer populations in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand lie outside the Protected Area Network and hence are extremely vulnerable to illegal trapping and hunting.

  5. Manoj Sharma says:

    Cheer Pheasant occurs at Binayak and Bajun near Nainital, Uttrakhand, India in small fragmented populations where its habitat is highly threatened due to seasonal burning of grassy slopes by local villagers.


      Mountaion Hawk Eagle and yellow-throated marten are enemies of cheer pheasants

  6. Andy Symes says:

    Abstract from Singh, P. B., Subedi, P., Garson, P. J. and Poudyal, L. 2011. Status, habitat use and threats of cheer pheasant Catreus wallichii in and around Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Nepal. International Journal of Galliformes Conservation 2: 22-30.

    “We assessed the density, population size, habitat use and threats to the cheer pheasant Catreus wallichii in Dhorpatan Valley, Nepal, within Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (DHR) and in the proposed buffer zone in 2003 and 2005. Cheer were found in the Surtibhag, Phagune, Bobang and Muri areas where densities of cheer pheasant recorded were 5 (± 1.2), 12.4 (± 1.2), 8 (± 0.88) and 7.5 (± 0.8) pairs per km2, and the areas of suitable habitat for cheer pheasant estimated were 7.5, 13.5, 11 and 13.5 km2 respectively. Based on density and suitable habitat, populations of cheer in Surtibhag, Phagune, Bobang and Muri areas were estimated to be 37 (± 9), 167 (± 16), 67 (± 10) and 101 (±10) pairs of cheer pheasant respectively . The densities of cheer pheasant were the highest recorded from Nepal, and population levels in the Dhorpatan Valley had not changed since it was surveyed in 1981. The species preferred open forests and shrubs with grassy undergrowth on rugged, rocky slopes. Densities of cheer pheasant were negatively correlated with tree crown cover. There was no significant correlation with grass cover or measures of grazing pressure, suggesting that current levels of grazing, timber collection and grass burning were not hindering the species’ existence. Hunting and snaring may be major continuing threats to cheer pheasant despite legal protection.”

  7. Virat Jolli says:

    In another incidence, large area of Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary which is another important habitat site for Cheer Pheasant, is under threat from submergence due to building of Kol Dam. This dam is built up on Satluj River in Himachal Pradesh. As the dam construction is almost completed, so Cheer habitats would shrink further. For more details refer to the below mention report.

  8. John Corder says:

    It seems unfortunate that the consultation process with regard to up-grading the Red List status of the Cheer pheasant has not included the Chief Wildlife Warden of Himachal Pradesh State in India. He was unaware of the proposal until after the official closing date for discussions. Surely we should ensure that ALL those with prime knowledge are invited to contribute, to provide a balanced and fully informed discussion.
    I am not qualified to make any significant contribution to the debate concerning the future status of the Cheer pheasant, and all the previous contributors have made valid points regarding the changed status of the species with their area of expertise. There is no mention of the occasional sites where Cheer appear to have returned within Himachal.
    However, most worryingly, there appear to be no surveys on the inter-relatedness of populations. All the above evidence seems to indicate that many groups are small in number and isolated. Since Cheer are capable of raising large clutches, it seems possible that there might be a very high degree of in-breeding within these local populations, which might threaten the species much more than we are currently aware.
    Finally, the reintroduction project for this species in Pakistan in the 1980s was undertaken because the species was supposed to be extirpated in Pakistan. If the species now exists there, are these birds the descendants of the reintroduction programme, has the species re-colonised from elsewhere, or was the original reintroduction programme based on inaccurate survey evidence? If the species has recolonized from elsewhere, then this is extremely significant for the future of this species since it could indicate the distances that birds might travel over time to re-colonise previous localities.

    • Andy Symes says:

      Hi John,

      Many thanks for your comments.

      I’m sorry that the Chief Wildlife Warden was unaware of the Cheer Pheasant discussion, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the difficulty in contacting all relevant individuals for all species, especially since there are currently several hundred species being discussed on the forum. We do our very best to consult as widely as possible, spreading the word through our network of national Partner organisations, species specialist groups (in this case the Galliformes Specialist Group), ornithological email groups etc, but unfortunately we don’t always manage to track down everybody.

      The official closing date for discussions is in fact Monday August 19th – we have only posted provisional decisions so far, and we very much welcome further comments – so the Chief Wildlife Warden still has time to comment on the proposal if he wishes. Please note however that we have received a good summary of Cheer Pheasant status in Himachal Pradesh from Sat Pal Dhiman of Himachal Pradesh Forestry Department.

      Andy Symes

  9. Rahul Kaul says:

    The situation of cheer has not changed in the last 10 years or so and if anything, more populations are being found and none, even the small ones have been lost. One feels tempted to uplist a species in the name of conservation but the threat criteria being used to define threat perceptions does not warrant or justify and uplist.

    I would recommend that it stays the way it is.

  10. Andy Symes says:

    A summary of Cheer Pheasant status in Himachal Pradesh, India, has been provided by Sat Pal Dhiman, HP Pheasant Conservation Breeding Programmes, Wildlife Wing of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department. The summary has been posted in a link at the end of the original forum topic.

  11. Andy Symes says:

    A map and table of results from Cheer Pheasant surveys in Pakistani Kashmir has been provided by Naeem Awan and can be found at the end of the original forum topic.


    STATUS AND POPULATION An assessment made on Cheer Pheasant in Nepal in October 2012 put the species in the Endangered category based on the criteria A2acd and C2a(i). An earlier species draft had assessed the species as Vulnerable in Nepal. However discussions at the October 2012 Nepal workshop to discuss the preliminary drafts upgraded its status to Endangered. The following text is extracted from the full Cheer Pheasant species account which is available for download from the front page of Himalayan Nature: A distribution map showing pre- and post-1990 distribution is also available here.

    The species is a local resident in the west, fairly common in and around Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (DHR) and scarce elsewhere. Further fieldwork is needed in the far west to properly assess its distribution and status there. The majority of the known population occurs in and around DHR and is the only stable population in Nepal; elsewhere the population is declining. However the population inside DHR has not been surveyed since 2003. The Dhorpatan valley (inside DHR) was found to support an estimated Cheer population of between 179 and 229 pairs in 2003 (Subedi 2003, Singh et al. 2011). A 2006 survey he DHR buffer zone was estimated to support 148-188 pairs (Singh et al. 2006, Singh et al. 2011). In total the Dhorpatan area had an estimated Cheer population of 327-417 pairs and the population densities were the highest recorded in Nepal – 7.5-9 pairs per km2 (Singh et al. 2011).
    The Nepal population is estimated to be less than 1,500 birds. Cheer Pheasant is generally scarce because of the patchy distribution of its specialized habitat.

    Snaring, hunting, overgrazing (which causes grassland loss, promotes unpalatable species and finally changes the habitat structure), deforestation and uncontrolled forest fire to promote grazing have been identified as the main threats to Cheer in Nepal (Subedi 2003, Singh et al. 2006; 2011). Hunters catch Cheer in a variety of ways, using captive Cheer as lures, trapping or shooting (Acharya et al. 2006, Singh et al. 2006, Subedi 2003). Cheer seems to suffer disproportionately from hunting, perhaps because it roosts communally at lower elevations and close to inhabited areas than do most other Himalayan Galliformes (Kalsi 1999). Cheer is sedentary, easily detected by it calls and occupies open habitats, with the result that it is extremely vulnerable to hunting and susceptible to local eradication (Kalsi 1999, Young et al. 1987).

    Singh et al. (2011) found it difficult to find evidence of snaring and hunting in DHR because of Cheer’s legal status. However according to local informants Cheer are still hunted there (Singh et al. 2011).

    In Rara National Park Cheer are in peril because of snaring (by using captive Cheer as lures) which was found to be a frequent practice (Budhathapa 2006). Other threats are destruction of nests and eggs by herders when they find them, livestock overgrazing and forest fires (Budhathapa 2006). In the park’s buffer zone Cheer was seriously threatened by habitat fragmentation, hunting, snaring, egg collection and overgrazing. The proposed buffer zone forest management regimes had not been implemented (Singh and KC 2008, Singh 2009).

    In 1987 above Ghasa, Annapurna Conservation Area locals reported Cheer was declining because of hunting pressure (Gawn 1987). According to Acharya (2004) after the intervention of the ACA Project and handover of firearms by local people to security forces, hunting was decreasing, but still existed. Livestock grazing and slash and burn practices were also recognized as threats (Acharya 2004). In the Kali Gandaki valley in 2009, snaring, overgrazing, firewood collection, timber harvesting, collection of eggs, slash and burn cultivation, and nest damage by dogs during breeding are the major threats identified for Cheer (Subedi 2013).

    In remote areas of the mid west and far west people still rely on biological resources to treat illness. The main reason for Cheer hunting here is to provide a traditional treatment of asthma and body pain or uncured fever, through eating the meat (Budha 2006). Around Simikot, Humla District the species may be traded locally, although the people of Yalbang, also in Humla District, strictly prohibit hunting (Ghimire 2011).
    Post-1990 Cheer Pheasant has been recorded in four protected areas in Nepal: Api Nampa and Annapurna Conservation Areas, Rara National Park and Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve.

    Acharya, (Sharma), R. (2004) Survey of the Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichii) (Hardwicke, 1827) in lower Kali Gandaki valley, Mustang, Nepal. Report to King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, Annapurna Conservation Area Project, Nepal; World Pheasant Association, UK; School of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, Nepal. Unpublished. 43pp.
    Acharya, (Sharma), R., Thapa, S. and Ghimirey, Y. (2006) Monitoring of the Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii in lower Kaligandaki valley, Mustang, Nepal. Report to King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, Annapurna Conservation Area Project. Unpublished. 17pp.
    Budha, P. B. (2006) The Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii (Hardwicke, 1827) and indigenous hunting techniques in mid and far west Nepal. Danphe 15(2/3): 2-3.
    Budhathapa, B. (2006) Status and distribution of Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichii) in Rara National Park. Report to World Pheasant Association, UK and Oriental Bird Club, UK. Unpublished.
    Gawn, S. (1987) Birding in India and Nepal, 5 February–10 April 1986: a trip report. Unpublished. 2pp.
    Ghimirey, Y. (2011) Birds recorded in Humla District in December 2011. Unpublished.
    Kalsi, R. S. (1999) Status and habitat of cheer pheasant Catreus wallichii in Himachal Pradesh. New Delhi, India: World Pheasant Association, South Asia Office.
    Singh, P. B. (2009) Cheer pheasant in peril in Rara National Park, Nepal. The International Newsletter of World Pheasant Association 83. Fordingbridge, UK: World Pheasant Association.
    Singh, P. B. and K. C., S. (2008) Study on Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichi in Botamalika grassland, Rara National Park and Buffer Zone, Mid-Western Nepal, April-September 2008. Report to World Pheasant Association and Oriental Bird Club. Unpublished.
    Singh, P. B., Paudyel, L. and Sharma, S. (2006) Survey of Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichi in and around Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, western Nepal. Report to World Pheasant Association, UK and Oriental Bird Club, UK. Unpublished. 30pp.
    Singh, P. B., Subedi, P., Garson, P. J. and Poudyal, L. (2011) Status, habitat use and threats of cheer pheasant Catreus wallichii in and around Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Nepal. International Journal of Galliformes Conservation 2:22-30.
    Subedi, P. (2003) Status and distribution of Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi) in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Nepal. Unpublished report submitted to World Pheasant Association and Oriental Bird Club, August 2003.
    Subedi, P. (2013) Struggling Cheer Pheasant: a revisit to the Kaligandaki valley, Nepal. Ibisbill 2:66-74.
    Young, L., Garson, P. J. and Kaul, R. (1987) Calling behaviour and social organization in the cheer pheasant: Implications for survey technique. Journal of World Pheasant Association. 12:30-43.

    Carol Inskipp and Hem Sagar Baral

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