Meet one of the planet’s rarest flyers
These shimmering black-and-blue pheasants are so rare that they have not been seen in the wild for almost 20 years. In 2012, Edwards’ pheasants were listed among the ten most endangered species in the world by the IUCN. It is now feared that they are extinct in their native Vietnam and exist only in the safety of captivity.
The species is still listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, although there is a strong population in captivity, almost all descended from a small number of birds captured in the wild in the 1920s.
The World Pheasant Association (WPA) sent four pairs of Edwards’ pheasants to Hanoi Zoo in 1994 and, when a wild-caught male bird was confiscated from poachers in 2000, it was rescued and able to breed with one of the females from the UK. This wild male is the only bird known to have entered the breeding programme since the 1920s.
Sudeley Castle works closely with the World Pheasant Association and this year bred five Edwards’ pheasant chicks – the most that have ever hatched in the pheasantry. The successful breeding of the birds is a huge boost for the captive breeding programme for a species on the very brink of extinction. The healthy captive population of this species provides genuine hope that this glamorous bird could one day be returned to its natural home in the wild.