Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi is endemic to the lowland forests of central Vietnam. Currently it is listed as Endangered under criteria B1a+b(ii,iii,iv,v); C2a(i) on the basis of its small (<5000 km2), severely fragmented range and population which are both continuing to decline, primarily owing to continuing lowland forest deterioration (BirdLife, 2011). In 1994 its population was estimated at <1000 individuals based on the area of remaining habitat (BirdLife International 2012). This estimate did not take hunting pressure into account.
Historically, it was recorded in four Provinces, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue. In the 1920s Delacour collected several specimens but between 1930 and 1996, the species was not recorded and assumed extinct (Le Trong Trai & Richardson 1999). After some unconfirmed records of Edwards’s Pheasant in Thua Thien Hue Province the species was rediscovered in 1996 near to the Phong My Commune, Thua Thien Hue, and also near the Huong Hiep Commune, Quang Tri (Le Trong Trai & Richardson, 1999). Since this re-discovery several other individuals were found in the Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue Provinces. The last confirmed recent record was in 2000, where one male was confiscated from a hunter and held in captivity in the Hai Lang District Forest Protection Department, Quang Tri (BirdLife International, 2012). BirdLife International (2012) suggest that the species is confined to three nature reserves and one National Park; Dakrong, Quang Tri Province and the contiguous Phong Dein, Thua Thien Hue Province, Bac Huong Hoa, Quang Tri Province, and the Bach Ma National Park (BirdLife International 2012). However, the species has never been confirmed in Bach Ma National Park (BirdLife International 2012), or in the Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserve (Mahood & Tran Van Hung, 2008). All reports of the species from the area which now falls within the Dakrong/Phong Dien Nature Reserves were from hunters, most being pairs caught in snare-traps (described in Le Trong Trai & Richardson, 1999).
Since the year 2000, the species has not been recorded, apart from a possible record of a single female discovered near to the Hai Van Pass in 2009 (http://www.vietnambirding.com/Edwards-Pheasant-found-in-Central-Vietnam.aspx). In 2011, dedicated surveys for the species in two relatively undisturbed sites, Khe Nuoc Trong Watershed Protection Forest, Quang Binh and Dakrong Nature Reserve, Quang Tri were carried out by BirdLife Vietnam, World Pheasant Association and King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand. Camera traps (83 locations in Khe Nuoc Trong and 28 in Dakrong) were baited with rice (unhusked) to increase the probability of detection.
In Dakrong Nature Reserve, 636 camera trap days failed to detect the species. Photographs of humans and associated domestic animals made up 66 % (n = 1157) of all pictures taken in Dakrong. In addition, there was evidence of human disturbance (logging) and hunting (snares and bird traps). Dakrong Nature Reserve has been reduced in extent from 40,526 hectares in 2002 to 37,640 hectares in 2010 (Le Trong Trai 2010). The area of forest that has been lost is mainly from the lowland areas of Dakrong (pers. obs), which are the areas that are thought to be utilised by the Edwards’s pheasant (BirdLife 2012). A similar situation has occurred in the Bach Ma National Park where between 1973 and 2001 45 % of the forest in the buffer zone was transformed (Yen et al., 2005). This buffer zone is typically at lower elevations. Widespread evidence of hunting and other forms of human disturbance suggest that the effective geographic range is much smaller than the area occupied by otherwise potentially suitable habitat.
In Khe Nuoc Trong Watershed Protection Forest a total of 2916 camera trap days failed to locate the species. There is no historical evidence to confirm the presence of L. edwardsi in this forest although local people believed that they had encountered it in the last 5 years. Other galliform species were photographed during the surveys including, Siamese fireback, Lophura diardi, red junglefowl, Gallus gallus and scaly-breasted partridge, Arborophila chloropus.
The failure of dedicated surveys to detect the species in these two sites and direct and indirect evidence of high level of human disturbance makes us concerned that the status of the species has declined. Since 1996 the species has only been recorded from confiscated hunted individuals (numbering 10 with a report of a further 8 – 10 un-hunted individuals being present in the Dakrong/Phong Dein Nature Reserve in 1996 -1998). The species has not been recorded within any other protected area, and has not been recorded anywhere since 2000. Data held by the World Pheasant Association are summarised thus:
1. 21 spatially referenced records from 1922 to 2000 (museum records and field reports).
2. Eames et al. 1992 concluded that all the sites the species had been recorded in historically (in the 1920s) had been deforested.
3. Post 1996 there are only four spatially referenced location points.
4. All these location points are reports from hunters and refer to the villages in which the Edwards’s were confiscated.
The species is currently suspected to be undergoing population declines of 30-49% in three generations: comments on the likely rate of decline over the past and future 15-year periods (three generations, based on an estimated generation length of 5 years, BirdLife International unpubl. data) would be welcome – sufficient evidence to suspect or project a reduction of >80% in 15 years would warrant reclassification as Critically Endangered under the A criterion.
The Extent of Occurrence (note that this does not equate to the area of suitable habitat, or the area occupied by the species, but rather measures the spread of extinction risk – see IUCN Categories and Criteria and Red List Guidelines for more details) has recently been estimated at 6,450 km² – thresholds for qualification under the B criterion (with further relevant conditions met) are <100 km² for Critically Endangered, <5,000 km² for Endangered, and <20,000 km² for Vulnerable.
The population estimate was placed in the band 250-999 individuals in 1994, with the largest subpopulation estimated to contain no more than 250 individuals. Given the suspected rate of decline owing to habitat loss and hunting since these estimates were made, it is possible that they are now in need of revision. If it is now reasonable to estimate that the total population is fewer than 250 mature individuals, with either a) fewer than 50 mature individuals in the largest subpopulation or b) 90-100% of individuals in a single subpopulation, and undergoing continuing declines, the species would be eligible for uplisting to Critically Endangered under the C criterion.
Furthermore, if there was sufficient evidence to indicate that the population numbered fewer than 50 mature individuals, the species would qualify as Critically Endangered under the D criterion.
Comments in particular on the likely current population size and subpopulation structure of the species, as specified above, together with any further information on levels of hunting pressure across remaining potentially suitable habitat, and indeed any recent unconfirmed reports of the species, would be very much welcomed. Insights into the intensity and distribution of hunting in its range would be especially welcome.
With apologies for the very short turnaround period, please send any comments and information on this species by January 31st if possible – preliminary decisions on status changes to feed into the 2012 Red List update will be made then, and there will then be a last opportunity to comment before final decisions are made in mid February. Forum discussions on species for which we have not had sufficient input to make a decision will be held open with the aim of soliciting further feedback in time for the 2013 update.
Birdlife International (2001). Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.
Birdlife International (2012). Species factsheet: Lophura edwardsi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/01/2012.
Eames, J.C., Robson, C.R., Nguyen Cu and Truong Van La (1992) Forest Bird Surveys in Vietnam 1991. ICBP Study Report 51. Cambridge, U.K: International Council for Bird Preservation
Le Trong Trai (2010). Shrinking IBAs of central Vietnam. The Babbler, 35: 31-32
Le Trong Trai and W.J. Richardson (1999). A Feasibility Study for the Establishment of Phong Dien (Thua Thien Hue Province) and Dakrong (Quang Tri Province) Nature Reserves, Vietnam. BirdLife International Vietnam Programme, Hanoi
Mahood, S. P. and Tran Van Hung (2008). The Biodiversity of Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserve, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. BirdLife International Vietnam Programme, Hanoi, Vietnam
Yen, P., S. Ziegler, F. Huettmann and A.I. Onyeahialam (2005). Change Detection of Forest and Habitat Resources from 1973 to 2001 in Bach Ma National Park, Vietnam, Using Remote Sensing Imagery. International Forestry Review, 7: 1 – 8.