CHENGDU -- Researchers in Southwest China's Sichuan province have hatched five Chinese monal chicks, a rare species of pheasant, increasing the number of artificially-bred Chinese monals to a global total of 16.
With highly iridescent plumage, the Chinese monal is one of the largest pheasants in the world. The species is listed as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is under China's highest national-level protection.
There are less than 3,000 wild Chinese monals in the world, which mainly live in mountainous areas, at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level in the northwest parts of Sichuan, and Qinghai and Gansu provinces and Tibet Autonomous Region.
"The Chinese monal is one of the most difficult species to breed in captivity," said Zhou Caiquan, deputy director of the Sichuan (Baoxing) Protection and Research Center of Chinese Monal.
"Wild Chinese monals are hard to tame. Some birds still avoid people even after decades in captivity. Furthermore, mating and hatching eggs in cages also prove challenging," Zhou added.
Five artificially-bred female Chinese monals in the center laid 16 eggs during the breeding season between April and June, and five of them have been successfully hatched.
The sexes of the newborns have not yet been identified as they are still fluffy chicks. Their sexes can be discerned after one year.
The center, located in a national nature reserve, is now working with Chinese universities and international institutions, expecting to increase the number of artificially-bred Chinese monals to 50 and release them into the wild in five years.