Pheasant spotted in Ulu Baram could be new subspecies

This image of a pheasant, believed to be a new subspecies, was captured on remote camera in Ulu Baram recently.

KUCHING, June 5: Forest Department Sarawak’s (FDS) researcher Dr Ahmad Ampeng and his team recently spotted an unidentified bird species somewhere in Ulu Baram.

From the taxonomy description made, the species is possibly a new sub-species of pheasant from the family Phasianidae of the genus Lophura.

FDS acting director Hamden Mohammed said in a statement today that three Lophura species were known to inhabit the Bornean forest, namely Lophura ignita ignita, Lophura ignita nobilis and Lophura bulweri.

The Lophura bulweri, also known as Bulwer’s wattled pheasant or white tailed wattled pheasant are endemic to Borneo.

The most significant difference between the two Bornean Lophura species was the crest. The crest is absent in the Lophura bulweri but appears in both male and female of the Lophura ignita ignita and Lophura ignita nobilis.

The absence of crest and plumage comparisons meant the spotted pheasant is strictly not from the Lophura ignita species but more towards the bulwer species. However, its physical characteristic, plumage coloration and particularly its tail was different from those of the Lophura bulweri.

Because of this, it was concluded that the species might be the sub-species of Lophura bulweri.

Dr Ahmad (standing second from left) with his team of researchers.

Hamden said so far the identification was only made based on their physical characteristic/taxonomy.

“No DNA sample has been taken because during the survey, no complete equipment was brought along. DNA sample collection would need proper equipment, otherwise the species may die. This is the first time the species was recorded, and we don’t have any idea about their population.

“We are in the midst of collecting a proper DNA sample to confirm the status of the species,” said Hamden.

He explained that the findings indicated that the forests in Sarawak still hold the mystery of species diversity and thus should be intensively explored by the department’s researchers.

“The finding also indicated that the FDS has fully undertaken the responsibility of their forest management,” he said.

He pointed out that the species could be a tourism product, especially for bird watchers or researchers in the avian field. — DayakDaily