Archived 2020 topic: Great Argus (Argusianus argus): revise global status?

BirdLife species factsheet for Great Argus

Great Argus (Argusianus argus) occurs in the Sundaic lowlands from the Thai-Malay Peninsula to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. It inhabits tall primary, secondary and logged forests, preferring intact, undisturbed forest with large trees and open understory (Dinata et al. 2008, Winarni et al. 2009). The population is thought to number more than 100,000 individuals; it is here tentatively placed in the band 100,000-499,999 mature individuals. 

Great Argus is undergoing a decline caused by hunting and habitat loss. Forest destruction in the Sundaic lowlands of Indonesia and Malaysia has been extensive because of a variety of factors, including the escalation of logging and land conversion, with deliberate targeting of all remaining stands of valuable timber, and forest fires. Population declines caused by habitat loss are compounded by trapping for the cage-bird trade, as the species is facing a high pressure from hunting (Symes et al. 2018).

Great Argus is currently listed as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd (BirdLife International 2020). However, new information regarding the population trend suggests that the species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, it will be re-assessed against all criteria:

Criterion A – Great Argus is undergoing a rapid decline caused by habitat loss and hunting. A study investigating the combined impact of these threats found that habitat within the range has been lost at a rate of 16.4% over 16.2 years (Symes et al. 2018; see also Tracewski et al. 2016). The species is also facing high hunting pressure, which accounts for additional declines of 52.8% over the same period, so that the population would overall be declining at a rate of up to 69.2% over 16.2 years (Symes et al. 2018). Following a thorough reassessment, one generation length is now thought to be 7.9 years for this species (see Bird et al. 2020)*. Hence, the relevant timeframe for an assessment against Criterion A is 23.7 years. A population decline of 69.2% over 16.2 years equates to a decline of up to 82% over 23.7 years. Very high rates of decline were even observed within protected areas, where the species was found to decline at a rate of >50% over three generations (Dawrueng et al. 2017). We can assume that declines are continuing at the same high rate into the future. The species would thus meet the threshold for listing as Critically Endangered under Criterion A2acd+3cd+4acd.

Criterion B – The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) for this species is 3,430,000 km2. This is too large to warrant a listing as threatened under Criterion B1, and therefore the species may be considered Least Concern under this criterion. The Area of Occupancy (AOO) has not been quantified according to IUCN guidelines (see IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee 2019), and thus the species cannot be assessed against Criterion B2.

Criterion C – The global population numbers more than 100,000 mature individuals; it therefore qualifies for listing as Least Concern under Criterion C.

Criterion D – The global population and range are too large to warrant a listing as threatened under Criterion D, and the species is therefore classified as Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Therefore, it is suggested that Great Argus (Argusianus argus) be listed as Critically Endangered under Criterion A2acd+3cd+4acd. We welcome any comments on the proposed listing.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.

*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2020. Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.

BirdLife International. 2020. Species factsheet: Argusianus argus. (Accessed 18 May 2020).

Dawrueng, T.; Ngoprasert, D.; Gale, G. A.; Browne, S.; Savini, T. 2017. Effect of landscape variables on the long-term decline of Great Argus in the rainforest of Southern Thailand. Bird Conservation International 27: 282-293.

Dinata, Y.; Nugroho, A.; Haidir, I. A.; Linkie, M. 2008. Camera trapping rare and threatened avifauna in west-central Sumatra. Bird Conservation International 18(1): 30-37.

IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee. 2019. Guidelines for using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 14.

Symes, W. S.; Edwards, D. P.; Miettinen, J.; Rheindt, F. E.; Carrasco, L. R. 2018. Combined impacts of deforestation and wildlife trade on tropical biodiversity are severely underestimated. Nature Communications 9: 4052.

Tracewski, Ł.; Butchart, S. H. M.; Di Marco, M.; Ficetola, G. F.; Rondinini, C.; Symes, A.; Wheatley, H.; Beresford, A. E.; Buchanan, G. M. 2016. Toward quantification of the impact of 21st-century deforestation on the extinction risk of terrestrial vertebrates. Conservation Biology 30: 1070-1079.

Winarni, N. L.; O’Brien, T. G.; Carroll, J. P.; Kinnaird, M. F. 2009. Movements, distribution and abundance of Great Argus Pheasants (Argusianus argus) in a Sumatran rainforest. The Auk 126(2): 341-350.

This entry was posted in Archive, Asia, Galliformes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Archived 2020 topic: Great Argus (Argusianus argus): revise global status?

  1. Ingkayut Sa-ar says:

    In Thailand, the Great Argus still remain in many conservation area in the peninsular region, especially in Khoasok – Khlong Saeng and Hala-Bala forest complexes, including Ton Nga Chang , Khao Banthad , Khlong Phraya Wildlife Sanctuary and Khao Nam Khang, Sankala Khiri and Talebun National park even small conservation area such Thata Sawan Non-hunting area in Satun province.

    I have no information about its density in these conservation area. However, its suitable habitat is dramatically loss nowadays, therefore the species could be classified as Vulnerable or Endangered.

  2. Simon Mahood says:

    I am not going to dispute the science behind the proposed uplisiting of Great Argus to CR under A, the evidence seems to be there for this somewhat surprising leap all the way from NT. All I would urge is that the status of Crested Argus is reevaluated next year – the data are not available like they are for Great Argus, but the species occupies a range where habitat loss and rates of hunting of large-bodied birds and mammals is significantly worse than it is in the Sundaic lowlands. If inferences can be made from the closely related Great Argus then the status of Crested Argus must surely also be revised to CR.

  3. Craig Robson says:

    I have to agree, and I am sure it is true, that Crested Argus is in much more trouble than Great. Though this would not be the place to make comments on Crested (which has undergone a truly catastrophic and shocking decline in just 25 years – without parallel).

  4. Yong Ding Li says:

    The species seems to be able to persist in logged forests, some secondary forests, and forest fragments (500-1,000 ha) in the lowlands of Malaysia and Indonesia, and extends to nearly the submontane zone, including heavily used forests fragments such as Gn. Lambak (Lee, Z.H. in litt), to mid-sized forest fragments such as Lenggor, Arong, Panti FR (Johor), and Kubah NP (Sarawak). In central Peninsular Malaysia, the species remain common by vocalisations and camera-trap data. On Borneo, the species is occasionally caught in snares (set for ground mammals). The species continues to face habitat loss due to logging etc, and perhaps this justifies an uplist to Vulnerable, but in my view, perhap not ‘Critically Endangered’!

  5. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  6. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal
    Based on available information and the discussions above, the species is believed to be undergoing a rapid population reduction but that it is unlikely to be at the rate initially proposed in the topic. The rate of decline within Hala Bala is of great concern, slightly exceeding the threshold for Endangered (Dawrueng et al. 2017) but the study is of an area under especially high human pressures. These pressures are present but less severe at other protected areas within the species range (13.8 years; Bird et al. 2020). The impact of hunting on the population suspected by Symes et al. (2018) does not appear to be supported by the observation that this species persists in logged forests and fragments (where there would be expected to be high hunting pressure), and this is not one of the 13 Galliform species that have become extinct outside of protected areas within the Sundaic region (Boakes et al. 2018). This supports the suggestion in the comments that the rate of decline is rapid, but not at the suspected very rapid rate as initially proposed.
    Thus, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list the Great Argus as Vulnerable under Criterion A2acd+3cd+4acd.

    Additional resources used:
    *Boakes, E. H., Fuller, R. A., and McGowan, P. J. K. (2018). The extirpation of species outside protected areas. Conservation Letters 12 (1); 1-7.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.
    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.
    The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021 (information on the IUCN Red List update process can be found here), following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  7. Muhammad Iqbal says:

    Five years ago, when I visit to bird surveys in remaining forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the signs (sound and feathers) still able to found. Unfortunately, in the last five years, I think I have found only feathers (look like after hunted) by local in northwest South Sumatra

  8. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    The final categorisation for this species has not changed. Great Argus is recommended to be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion A2acd+3cd+4acd.

    Many thanks for everyone who contributed to the 2020 GTB Forum process. The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.