Blue-crowned Laughingthrush GSMP
© Xie Xiao-fang
The blue-crowned laughingthrush (Dryonastes courtoisi) is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List and Endangered in the China Species Red List. Endemic to China, the species was known only from five museum skins until 1988 when it dramatically appeared in the international bird trade. Two specimens had been taken in Wuyuan County, Jiangxi Province, in southeast China in 1919 and three collected near Simao, Yunnan Province, southwest China in 1956, but the species had not been seen again in the field and its status in the wild then remained completely unknown. These five specimens were previously considered to represent two distinct Chinese subspecies of the yellow-throated laughingthrush (Garrulax galbanum), but are now together considered either as the monotypic species Dryonastes courtoisi or as two subspecies (courtoisi and simaoensis) of this Chinese endemic. Despite uncertainties regarding the taxonomy of courtoisi and validity of simaoensis, a taxonomic review elevates Dryonastes courtoisi to full species status, a revision also been adopted by ISIS. For captive management purposes, and based upon available historical data, all birds in the managed populations are likely to have originated from the same source and should be treated as one population. EAZA and AZA manage blue-crowned laughingthrush at the species level.
The remaining wild population of about 250 individuals breed in discrete colonies centred around Wuyuan County in the province of Jiangxi, southeast China. This population has been monitored since its discovery, and annual counts are made by Prof He Fen-qi. The Forestry Bureau of Wuyuan County (FBWC) supports protection of a number of key breeding sites. Surveys for further colonies and wintering sites continue in Jiangxi and have also been conducted in former range areas in southwest China. Chester Zoo coordinates the financial and technical support from European partners to Prof He Fen-qi and FBWC and liaisons with both Chinese partners and Birdlife International. A draft Conservation Action Plan has been created by Chester Zoo and Birdlife International that includes proposed ex situ and in situ action items.
The blue-crowned laughingthrush population is regionally managed in North America as an AZA Red Program. The program was initially approved as an AZA Population Management Plan (PMP) in 2005. The immediate goals include increasing the overall population size as quickly as possible while improving genetic and demographic values to foster long-term sustainability. The European population has been managed by Laura Gardner since 2002 with a European Studbook (ESB) published annually. An International Studbook was approved in February 2012 with Laura serving as its keeper. As of 31 December 2012, the AZA population consisted of 33 specimens in nine accredited institutions. The ESB population included 147 individuals in 22 member institutions and four private participants.
Mark Myers – GSMP Convenor
© Xie Xiao-fang