Updates on Edwards’s Pheasant conservation activities in Vietnam during 2014
09 08, 2021

Edwards’s Pheasant lophura edwardsi is a critically endangered bird, endemic to the lowland forest in central Vietnam. Its historical distribution range covers four provinces, namely Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien – Hue; however, there has been no confirmed record since 2000. The long paucity in its sighting in the wild has sadly not only resulted in it being up-listed to Critically Endangered status in the IUCN Red List 2012, but also made it one of the most threatened pheasants in the world! Being shocked by the fear that it might be extinct in the wild, people who care for the survival of the species felt frustrated and ‘guilty’ that the species hadn’t been given enough attention because of our various constraints in knowledge and actions. It’s also overwhelmingly felt that for Edwards’s Pheasant, ‘business as usual’ no longer works!

In 2014, following the first strategic conservation planning workshop for Edwards’s Pheasant in September 2013 (featured in G@lliform Issue 8), the Edwards’s Pheasant conservation community, vigorously accelerated efforts to fight against the species’ extinction threats, while discussions still continues on what is the best possible course of actions we can do for the species. This article summarized Edwards’s Pheasant targeted conservation activities taken place in Vietnam during 2014.

Continued search for remaining Edwards’s Pheasant population in the wild

First, as a continuous activity since 2011, Viet Nature Conservation Centre and other local partners, (namely the Institute for Ecological and Biological Resources; Forest Protection Departments of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien – Hue provinces; and managers of key sites in Edwards’s Pheasant’s distribution range) carried out camera traps surveys to search for the species’ remaining populations in Quang Binh and Quang Tri provinces. In 2014 alone, 7,313 camera trap days were carried out in inferred suitable habitats for the species in the Truong Son Important Bird Area/Key Biodiversity Area, starting at Khe Nươc Trong proposed Nature Reserved and then Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserved. 17,002 photos of wildlife was taken, including 72 photos of pheasant species (namely Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi, Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera and Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata), but no Edwards’s was found[i]. The camera trap surveys were accompanied by a poster campaign and community interviews in Quang Binh and Quang Tri provinces to look for relevant information from local communities and other stakeholders. These surveys will continue and expand in 2015.

Efforts towards protection of remaining habitats

In also in 2014, Viet Nature launched an initiative for long term protection of Khe Nuoc Trong Forest (Truong Son IBA/KBA), the largest relatively least disturbed block of moist lowland evergreen forest in the historical range of Edwards’s Pheasant. This initiative includes about 800 ha of moist lowland evergreen forest, at elevations below 300 m, secured under a 30-year forest environmental lease, which is potentially suitable for the reintroduction of Edwards’s Pheasant, when necessary.

Khe Nuoc Trong is really a biodiversity “treasury trove” of Vietnam. During the last 4 years (2011-2014), Viet Nature’s camera trap surveys has capture photographic evidence of over 63 species of birds, mammals and reptiles, including 14 globally threatened, near-threatened and data deficient  ones[ii].

Improved information, planning and coordination for EP conservation

In July 2014, an Edwards’s Pheasant conservation workshop was organized in Quang Tri on 9 July 2014, hosted by Quang Tri provincial Forest Protection Department and co-sponsored by Quang Tri Forest Protection Department (FPD), Viet Nature and a government-funded project entitled “Conservation of pheasant species in central Vietnam” (2014-2015) of the Institute for Ecological and Biological Resources (IEBR). There were altogether 25 participants comprising of individual experts and representatives from Vietnamese conservation organizations, Hanoi Zoo, managers of key sites and the FPDs of key provinces within Edwards’s pheasant’s distribution range. The purpose of the workshop is to provide Edwards’s pheasant stakeholders with updates on Edwards’s pheasant conservation status and actions, to speed up the finalization of the Edwards’s pheasant conservation strategy drafted as a result of the September 2013 workshop, to act as a catalyst for the establishment of an Edwards’s Pheasant Working Group in Vietnam, and to discuss an Action Plan for Edwards’s pheasant for the coming 3-5 year period.

Thanks to the inputs from keen ex-situ conservation experts (Alain Hennache, Ludo Pinceel and Roland Wirth to name a few), Edwards’s Pheasant conservation practitioners in Vietnam for the first time had a quite comprehensive and up-to-date overview of Edwards’s Pheasant ex-situ situation. According to this, currently there is a captive population of EP of about 1000 individuals in Europe, Japan and American zoos and private breeders. However, this captive stock had originated from a tiny founder population (28 specimens, of which only 6-8 are female, collected between 1924 and 1930; and never subsequently supplemented with wild birds) and later underwent a bottle-neck. Studies indicated that it was very likely that all came from a single female! Inbreeding has led to a number of morphological changes. The genetic diversity was low but there were at least three meta-populations; and so far few exchanges have been made with USA, Vietnam and Japan. Hanoi Zoo participated in an EP ex-situ program since 1992 and kept a wild male rescued after trapping, which was mated to a European female and gave several descendents.

As of November 2014, Hanoi Zoo has altogether 8 birds, 5 male and 3 female. In collaboration with WPA and EAZA, the Zoo is in the process to import a group of experienced breeding birds (3 female and 1 male) from Europe, which are unrelated to the birds previously sent to Vietnam, to perpetuate the genes of the only wild male we had in the last eight decades[iii]!

Such comprehensive picture is extremely useful in the conservation planning for Edwards’s Pheasant – it tells us what we have in hand and what we (might) have in the bush! And the course to save Edwards’s Pheasant became clearer for all who attended the July workshop: while we should not lose hope or compromise efforts in finding the bird in the wild (we even should accelerate such efforts), we should give highest priority to maintaining and improving what we have in hand to prepare for the worst situation. Additionally, it would also be useful to take steps to learn more about Edwards’s Pheasant’s ecology in the wild.

Thus a feasible and budgeted Action Plan should be developed with the following goal and objectives:

  • Overall goal: To secure, maintain and restore the genetic resources and safe, suitable habitats for the long term persistence of Edwards’s pheasant in the wild.
  • Objectives:

(1) Secure, maintain and restore the best possible Edwards’s pheasant genetic resources by searching for remaining Edwards’s pheasant population in the wild and improving the management and genetic diversity of the captive population;

(2) Identify, protect and/or restore Edwards’s pheasant’s suitable and safe habitats for Edwards’s pheasant protection, monitored breeding or reintroduction when necessary;

(3) Coordinate actions and mobilize resources for effective Edwards’s pheasant conservation.

During the July 2014 workshop, a voluntary Edwards’s Pheasant Working Group in Vietnam (VN-EPWG) was formed, with Mr. Le Trong Trai from Viet Nature Conservation Centre nominated as its Coordinator. Viet Nature will voluntarily support the operation of VN EPWG, enhance the group’s profile and effectiveness and create closer linkages between VN EPWG and international Edwards’s pheasant conservation community.


After the workshop, Viet Nature contributed hosting and registered website names and is now in the process of developing a website dedicated to the conservation of this Edwards’s Pheasant: www.galoilam.org.vn and www.save-the-edwards-s-pheasant.org.


Figure 2 (left): Distributing posters and conducting interviews to look for Edwards's Pheasant

Figure 3 (right): Setting up a camera trap to look for Edwards's Pheasant

Figure 4: A pair of Edwards's Pheasant at Hanoi Zoo, December 2014


Figure 5: Edwards's Pheasant's suitable habitat at Khe Nuoc Trong, Quang Binh province


[i] Viet Nature Conservation Centre in litt. 2014

[ii] Viet Nature Conservation Centre in litt. 2014

[iii] Dang Gia Tung, Hanoi Zoo, pers. comm. (verbally) 2014

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Annual Meeting of Edwards’s Pheasant working group in Vietnam, 4-5/5/2017

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