Despite ban, monal pheasant’s crest still makes it to caps in Kullu —

Monal pheasant (male)

Monal pheasant (male)

Even though hunting of Himalayan Monal pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus) is banned since 1982, there has been little check on poaching of the former state bird of Himachal Pradesh, a state of India. Bird’s crest feather is easily available and people of Kullu valley still use it to decorate their caps during festivals, marriages and big events.

Also known as the Impeyan monalImpeyan pheasant, the bird belongs to pheasant family. It is the national bird of Nepal, where it is known as the ‘danphe’, and the state bird of Uttrakhand (India). The scientific name – Lophophorus impejanus – was given to honour Lady Mary Impey, the wife of the British chief justice of Bengal Sir Elijah Impey.

The bird’s native range extends from Afghanistan through the Himalayas in Pakistan, Kashmir region, Nepal, southern Tibet, Bhutan and Indian states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. There is also a report of its occurrence in Burma.

Painting by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) of the family of Chief Justice Elijah Impey and Mary Impey in Calcutta (India) in 1783_ Marian Impey (b. 1778) is shown dancing to Indian music

Painting by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) of the family of Chief Justice Elijah Impey and Mary Impey in Calcutta (India) in 1783_ Marian Impey (b. 1778) is shown dancing to Indian music

Though the wildlife department claims that no case of monal poaching has been reported in the recent years, goldsmiths here continue to get orders from local residents to make ornaments for caps with monal crest. Such ornaments are available in houses mostly in villages. People give the crest to goldsmith who fits it with the gold or silver fixed on the cap.

Divisional forest officer (wildlife) Tilak Raj Sharma said using monal crest feather as ornament is illegal and punishable. “The department is doing everything possible to control poaching. No case of monal poaching has come into our notice for a long time,” he said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a resident who has got two such caps said: “I got these caps made a few years back during the wedding of my son. This is our culture. The monal crest is fitted even to palanquins of our deities. This is auspicious and symbol of respect. We do not don the cap with crest all the time, but only during special occasion. The crest itself is rare and one has to pay a huge amount to get it. That’s why, it is decorated with gold or silver jewellery.”

Man in Pakistan wearing monal pheasant crest  in his cap

Man in Pakistan wearing monal pheasant crest in his cap

People wearing monal crest can be easily seen in a typical marriage in Kullu. “Generally people do not sell it. They keep it for themselves. It is precious and rare. Its main source can be poachers, but people generally do not know from where to get it. I received one fitted with silver from a goldsmith in the village,” another resident said.

Male monal, which is very colourful, has become endangered in some places in its range, which also include Kullu valley, a place notorious for its poaching. The main threat to the species is poaching for meat and its crest, which is considered valuable. It is thought to bring status to its wearer and is a symbol of authority

It lives in upper temperate oak-conifer forests interspersed with open grassy slopes, cliffs and alpine meadows between 2400 and 4500 meters. It is commonly found between 2700 and 3700 meters. The bird descends to 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in the winter. It tolerates snow and digs through it to obtain plant roots and invertebrate prey. Its breeding season is April through August, and the birds generally form pairs at this time. In winter they congregate in large coveys (groups) and roost communally

Himachal government built first monal breeding centre at Manali where a kardi (female monal) had laid three eggs. An egg has hatched but the chick died in a few days. Wildlife department is still studying the behaviour of this colourful pheasant to control its dwindling number. (Times of India)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ seven = 9

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>