The World Pheasant Association and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have recently agreed a six-year action plan with the *Hunting Federation of Macedonia and Thrace (KOMATH) to save the last indigenous population of black-necked pheasants in Greece.
Located in Nestos Delta in the east of the country, in 2015 the population was estimated to have declined to approximately 250 birds. The black- necked pheasant, which is a close relative of the bird seen in the UK, was widespread in Greece until 50 years ago, but due to loss of habitat the numbers have fallen and are now classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN red list.
Richard Carden, of the WPA explains; “Scientists from across Europe see importance in conserving these, the last of the wild, original pheasants in Europe. The project just agreed is an exciting new collaboration between pheasant-lovers in Britain, France and Greece, deploying the GWCT's expertise in conserving game birds to reinforce the enthusiasm and efforts of our Greek partners."
Roger Draycott, Head of Advisory at the GWCT comments; “Over the last 15 years KOMATH has been working to help conserve the population by monitoring the population each spring, improving habitat management and raising the profile within Greece of the plight of the pheasants. At the invitation of the WPA and KOMATH, in 2015 I visited the Nestos Delta to provide advice on the best way forward for the conservation of the population.
The six-year plan aims to stabilise and begin to increase the population in the Nestos Delta, through habitat improvement with a long-term goal of the pheasants potentially returning to other areas. It also aims for better understanding of predation, a more accurate scientific assessment of the population, and finally, increased public awareness, to widen support across Greece. The plan is the result of several years of work between the WPA and KOMATH and the work will be led by KOMATH, funded in part by KOMATH and in part by the WPA.
Roger Draycott concludes, “The population of pheasants is a tremendous and valuable resource for the Nestos Delta. Urgent action is needed now and we are delighted to be working with WPA and KOMATH to help improve the perilous state that this small population is in.
* KOMATH is a hunters' organization, funded by its members, for whom the majority interest is hunting. The members and staff include some keen conservationists. It is they who have called attention to the threatened state of their native wild pheasants. They have carried out some effective scientific studies and field conservation over the past ten years but need outside help to carry this to the next stage. The Black-necked pheasants live in a national reserve where all forms of hunting and shooting have been forbidden for many years.