Conservationists crying ‘fowl’ over dwindling species

PETALING JAYA: While the Year of the Rooster has kicked off, the future looks bleak for Malaysia’s very own endangered red junglefowl.

Known for its brilliantly coloured plumage, it used to be found foraging in the wild.

This type of fowl lives in a mix of open ground and dense vegetation such as around villages, plantations and the edges of towns and cities.

These days, it is getting harder to spot these fowls thought to be the wild ancestors of the domestic poultry.

“The red jungle fowl is generally considered as endangered due to encroachment of their habitats,” said Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh.

“The biodiversity loss is due to the development of roads, housing projects and agriculture,” he said, adding that other factors included it being hunted and used for cross-breeding.

While there are no available statistics documenting its population in the country, Goh said the numbers were dwindling.

Protected species: The male jungle fowl (left) and the female (right) are getting fewer in number.

“These jungle fowl can still be spotted in some parks and along some forest fringes here,” he added.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature “Red List”, which tracks threatened species worldwide, also classified the red jungle fowl population as “decreasing”.

Taman Negara in Pahang is also home to the red junglefowl where it is protected.

Under conservation laws, Goh said all wildlife in national parks were protected where hunting was prohibited.

Other than Malaysia, the fowls are also found in India, China and in some South-East Asian countries.

“The wild rooster is said to be more brilliantly coloured than its tame relatives.

“The main distinguishing feature is the red or white ear patches on the sides of the head,” Goh said.

In Malaysia and certain South-East Asian countries, the blood of chickens such as the red jungle fowl are also used for medicinal and black magic purposes.

According to a 1983 study by the Unesco Regional Office for Education in Asia and the Pacific, certain Asian cultures regard chicken blood as a “symbol of purification”.

“There are some studies which showed that hunting of the red junglefowl for bushmeat in plantations was carried out by estate workers,” added Goh.

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