Thursday, 9 February 2012

Red jungle fowl is not Extinct in Indian Wild

Written by Anil Singh

Red jungle fowl is not Extinct in Indian Wild

When humans start encroaching on forests: Wild animals suffer a double blow.

In such a scenario, not only, the likelihood of them being killed for food, revenge; or in accident, increases; but the likelihood of their extinction, by corruption of their genetic pool, increases as well.

Hence, when humans or their Live-stock (cattle, fowl) start venturing into forests or live on the periphery of protected areas; there is always a threat to the wild fauna (animals).

Just imagine the predicament of a conservationist biologist in a country like India, where 120 billion people are competing for limited land; and you will understand how challenging his/her job is.

For long, the biologists at Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, feared that the wild Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) population may be genetically contaminated, leading to an inference that there may not be any pure RJFs in the wild. Which in other words meant, the extinction of RJF in the wild.

But thankfully, a recent study on the Red Jungle Fowl (RJF) conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, has allayed such fears, and it’s still possible to differentiate between Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) and domestic chicken. In short, the RJF can still be found, in purest form, in the wild in Uttarakhand. In short, the RJF in wild may have declined in numbers, but the specie is not extinct.

The cause of the problem:

Scientists for long believed that the wild RJF population has been hybridised with the domestic stock, especially near the villages causing an introgression of domestic genes into the wild population. But the study established that such tendencies are very rare and thus, there was no cause of worry.

History of the interaction between humans and the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus):

The wild Gallus gallus is one of the most important species to the mankind due to its economic and cultural significance. It is believed that, RJF (believed to be the ancestor of all domestic chickens in the world), was first domesticated more than 5000 years ago in Mohenjodaro and Harappa in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation and poaching are some of the major challenges for the wild fowl population in the country.

RJF may not have extinct, but the numbers have declined:

The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun research project ‘Conservation of Red Jungle Fowl in India’, started with the aim to assess the current status and distribution of the RJF in the country, to identify pure RJF populations, to investigate social interactions and behaviour of RJF and domestic chicken, particularly in the forest-village interface, and to propose a conservation action plan for the RJF in the country; found that the current distribution is more or less similar to the historical distribution, barring some gaps where it is discontinuous due to challenges in cities, changed landscapes and unsuitable habitats like wetland, high altitude areas and fragmented forest patches.

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