PETALING JAYA: One of the world’s largest and rarest pheasants have been spotted in Malaysia after it was last seen in the 1990s.
The Crested Argus Pheasant – or the kuang gunung – was sighted for the first time in decades outside of Taman Negara in Terengganu.
The bird was spotted by a team of ornithological experts, who published their findings of the surveys conducted on the populations of the Crested Argus Pheasants in Malaysia between 2014 and 2016 in the journal Forktail in Britain.
Lead author of the study Liang Song Horng said the team had set up hundreds of camera traps for their surveys, which focused on known locations for the species in Taman Negara.
“Our findings demonstrate that the camera traps we have set up to monitor mammals can also help us to collect important data on ground birds, many which remain poorly known to scientists,” said Liang, who is the executive director of Pertubuhan Pelindung Alam Malaysia (Pelindung).
The pheasant, which is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as being endangered in 2018, holds the world record for having the longest known feathers.
It can only be found in Malaysia in the remote mountains of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.
The study involved authors from Pelindung, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan), Rimba, Sunway University, BirdLife International and Viet Nature Conservation Centre.
The experts spotted another pheasant species, the Great Argus Pheasant, whose loud calls are one of the most distinctive sounds in the Malaysian rainforest, in the forests during surveys.The Great Argus Pheasant is classified as being “near threatened” by the IUCN.
The experts however cautioned that the rare pheasants faced threats through indiscriminate poaching, pointing out that the Crested Argus had already disappeared from most areas of Vietnam and Laos where it could earlier be found.
Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, who is also a co-author of the study, said the Crested Argus faced a major threat of being poached in Malaysian forests by snares targeting large mammals.
“A top priority for us to conserve it is through strengthening our anti-poaching efforts in and around Taman Negara, and through captive breeding at our facilities in Sungkai,” he said.
Ornithologist at BirdLife International, Yong Ding Li said more studies were needed on the Crested Argus in Malaysia.
“Those here may prove to be a different species from those in Vietnam and thus a unique part of Malaysia’s natural heritage,” he said.