CAPTIVE BREEDING OF GREEN JUNGLE FOWL(Gallus varius)
in the TMII Bird Park
M. S. Prana, E.B. Utami, W. Prahara , E. Suwito, and H. R. Kuswardhani
Green Jungle Fowl (Gallus varius) a species of the family Galliformes, native to Indonesia, has become increasingly important during the last two decades. It is used as the male parent for producing the hybrid fowl which is popularly known as the "Bekisar".
Bekisar contest is held every now and then in various parts of Java and perhaps also Bali. "Bekisar" has also been designated the mascot of the East Java Province. To promote the mascot, the local authority has made it compulsory for every hotel and restaurant in the province to display "Bekisar". Hence Bekisar industry has become an important business in Indonesia today.
As such the Green Jungle Fowl are in great demand in the market. The male Green Jungle Fowls were mostly caught from the wild populations in Java, Madura and surrounding islands and Bali. Meanwhile not much has been achieved in the captive breeding of the fowl. Genetic or population erosion has become unavoidable and the existence of the species is threatened.
As part of its main mission, the TMII Bird Park has made an effort to breed this unique species through several ways. The fowl has no problem breeding in the giant walk-in aviary, however due to various factors (attacked by other birds, pests, etc.) the mortality rate in the aviary was rather high. Isolation and hand-rearing of the chicks gave better results at the initial stage (up to 8 – 12 weeks) but then most of them died due to various health problem (diseases, trauma etc.). Keeping pairs in the exhibition cage (within the giant aviary) discourage them from breeding, apparently due to continuous disturbances from visitors. Other alternative has been tried recently i.e. by keeping several pairs of the fowl in a special breeding cage. The result is now being observed and evaluated.
Gallus varius,known as Green Jungle Fowl is one of two endemic species of jungle fowls of Indonesia (Delacour, 1964). The other species is G. gallus which is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic chicken. The Green Jungle Fowl has largely remained a wild species although it has been known for a long time as a pet animal for its beauty and unique call, especially among the people of Java, Madura ,and Bali. The cock of this species has been crossed with the domestic hen to produce a hybrid popularly known in the country as "Bekisar". Recently by the decree of the Minister of Internal Affairs (No.48/ 1989) the Bekisar has been declared the mascot (identity fauna) of the East Java Province (Direktorat Jenderal Pengembangan Daerah, 1995). The idea of assigning provincial mascots (for the 27 provinces in Indonesia) was to heighten public awareness on bio-diversity, its conservation and utilization; to promote tourism and to encourage local handicraft industry. As it turned out the outcome was not quite as expected, although it has been anticipated or indicated by some scientists (Wendrato and Madyana , 1990 ; Widyastuti, 1993 ; Howman, 1993, and Prana, 1996). The natural population of the fowl has been under further pressure due to increased hunting by the villagers. The birds are used either as roosters for Bekisar breeding or for food.
The wild population is gradually declining. A captive-breeding program is badly needed in conjunction with other efforts to save the species. Various institutions and individuals in Indonesia have attempted to breed the species. the results of which is reported here with particular emphasis on the captive breeding program carried out in the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) Bird Park.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The subjects of this study were the Green Jungle Fowl collection of the TMII Bird Park. All the birds have been kept for several years and have adapted well to local conditions. A total of 11 birds (6 hens and 5 cocks) have been used for the study. Some (4 birds) were kept in the giant walk-in aviary (68 m in diameter and 30 m tall), others (2 birds) were kept in the old aviary (52 m in diameter, 17 m tall) and the rest
(2 birds) in smaller cages (8 m x 4.5 m x 3 m). Incubation period and survival of the chicks were among the important aspects observed. The results of observation from 1994 to October 1997 were recorded.
For various reasons (as a trial or when the eggs were neglected by the hen), some of the eggs were hatched in incubators and consequently all of the chicks obtained were hand-reared. In addition, some of the chicks obtained through natural incubation were also hand-reared as a comparison.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Fumihito et al. (1994), concluded from his study that the Green Jungle fowl was genetically less diverse compared to its close relative, G.varius. While accepting that as a normal phenomenon, Fumihito’s statement should be taken as a warning that serious efforts should be taken to prevent this species from further genetic erosion as a result of Bekisar breeding. Any further losses of its genetic diversity would have a great impact on the existence and future development/improvement of the species.
Bekisar as a pet of social status has been known as early as the 17 century at the time of the Mataram Kingdom. The hobby was limited to members of the Royal Family, rich people and high ranking officers (Sudrajad, 1990). The impact on the natural population was therefore not as serious. However since becoming the official mascot of the East Java Province the demand for Bekisar has been booming. Consequently hunting, especially for cocks, of the Green Jungle Fowl has increased, particularly in East Java (including Madura and the surrounding islands) and Bali. The local authority has encouraged people to keep Bekisar in their homes. For hotels in the province, it is compulsory to keep the hybrid. In addition concourses of Bekisar are held more frequently and more regularly in various places including Jakarta. This would not be a problem if there is a good supply of captive bred Green Jungle Fowl. Regrettably, for various reasons, there has been very little breeding of the bird in captivity. Firstly, unlike breeding of domestic chicken, it is not a quick and rewarding process. The fowl requires several months up to perhaps two years before it starts to breed. Secondly there is only a 50:50 chance of getting cocks from the breeding. Since the hens are not as valuable as the cocks the benefit to the breeder is relatively low. In short captive breeding has not yet become a highly rewarding business.
It was only quite recently when people as well as institutions/organizations in Indonesia began to pay attention on the matter. Scientists have launched a systematic research program to study the reproductive biology of the species. Some results have been made available in papers or reports. Widjajakusuma et al. (1997), as has pointed out by various previous authors, reemphasized the importance of a sufficient length of adaptation period as a prerequisite prior to breeding the fowl. Studying 10 fowls originated from Bali they found out that a longer adaptation period (6 months) gave a higher productivity (in terms of eggs production) than the shorter one (2 months). It is therefore preferable to use a rooster raised in captivity than a wild-caught specimen, as suggested by Sudradjad (1990).
As a wild species Green Jungle fowl is indeed quite sensitive to stress which directly or indirectly affect its survival and reproductive biology. Widjajakusuma et al. using heterophil / lymphocyte (H/L) ratio to measure stress response found that the H/L ratio of the non-adapted (prior to the test) group of Green Jungle fowl was higher than the adapted ones, indicating that the former group was under stressed. They further suggested that cortisol or corticosteroid levels should also be employed for such a test in the future. Sismin et al. (1995) upon studying the semen of G. varius concluded that quality of semen of Green Jungle Fowl was not significantly different from that of the domestic chicken and the Ayam Pelung (a special breed of domestic chicken in Cianjur Regency). Viability of frozen semen of Green Jungle fowl was quite low (5%) compared with the domestic chicken (40%). However with improved technology, they were quite optimistic that it should be possible to preserve the semen, including that of the Jungle fowl, under extremely low temperature (-1960C).
With regards to breeding itself, many institutions and individuals have claimed that they had been breeding Green Jungle fowl, but to our knowledge most of the efforts are still at the initial stages. Some have started the program for several months but no concrete results have been reported yet. In Bali the local forestry authority, in collaboration with the Bali Bird Park, has launched a program on captive breeding of the local fowl early this year. A total of 22 pairs of fowl have been kept in the breeding facility. A few chicks were said to have been obtained. A similar program, conducted by a semi private company, the Pt. Perhutani is underway in Kendal, Central Java. The company maintains 10 pairs of Green Jungle fowl in their breeding facility. No result has been reported yet. Discussion and negotiation between the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHPA) and the Biodiversity Group of Environment Australia is in progress in an effort to enhance the program at the regional level.
In some villages in Bali, such as Pujungan, Munduk and Gobleg the local people have a tradition of collecting the eggs of the fowl while clearing their coffee plantations of bushes. Such activity is regularly carried out around May –June each year. The eggs are then incubated by the domestic hens. The eggs would normally take around 21 days to hatch. Usually only the male chicks are kept. The female chicks are either sold or if they are maintained they will be used as decoy fowls to trap the wild cocks (Mufarid, 1990). They may also be slaughtered for food or sold in the local markets. This means that they have less chance for survival compared to the cocks.
MacKinnon (1991) mentioned that Green Jungle fowl in its natural habitats in west Java bred in October and November, and from March to July. In Bali the local people in Pujungan informed us that breeding season for the fowl was around May to July. Considering that Green Jungle fowl normally occurs in dry or arid habitats, October / November is the beginning of rainy season and March – July is towards the end of the season. Throughout this period feed is fairly abundant. Furthermore it could be speculated that breeding time of the fowl in one hand might be very much related with the availability of feed in their habitats, on the other hand the beginning and the end of the season might be the most appropriate time to brood the eggs or race the chicks from the climatic aspects point of view. At least the rainfall during that time is relatively mild compare with the middle of the season. The case that in the higher altitudes (above 1000 m), where humidity is likely much higher (not so arid/dry), the breeding season was reported to be from April to August (Mufarid, 1990) supported the assumption. Our records (see Table 1) further proved that in captivity (in the Bird Park) the fowl could breed almost throughout the year, except between December and March when hardly any record exist.
The number of eggs laid per hen ranges from 3 (34.78 %) to 5 (0.09%) with 4 eggs being the most frequent (56.52 %). The average number of eggs per hen was therefore 3.74. The figures were in agreement with those mentioned by MacKinnon who stated that the number of eggs laid was 3 to 4. Other authors such as Rutgers and Norris (1979) cited that the number of eggs laid was between 6 and 10. Such figures are questionable since 6 eggs are already regarded as rare. Under excellent maintenance conditions in captivity, however, there is no doubt that a hen could produce more eggs than it does in the wild.
The average hatching rate was 69% with the lowest of 50% and the highest being 100%. This indicates that the fertility of the eggs can be relatively high with a fertile rooster. Similar rates were obtained when the eggs were hatched in the incubator (at around 1010 F).
Survival rate of the chicks (around 3 months old), however, was low (average 34.78%). The low rate of survival was due to various factors, such as disease (enteritis, hepatitis, coccidiosis, pneumonia, parasites etc.) and trauma. At the later stage of development more losses can be expected. Table 2 shows various factors that have caused losses of adult chickens during the last 4 years. Handharyani et al. (1991) in a study on Aspergillosis involving 24 Green Jungle fowls owned by some hobbyists in Bogor revealed that 11 fowls (45.83%) were infected by Aspergillus fumigatus, one fowl (4.71%) by Rhizopus sp. and another one by Mucor sp. In addition 9 fowls (37.5%) suffered from enteritis, 5 fowls (20.83%) from cachexia, and 6 fowls (25 %) from parenchymatous organ degeneration. The disease problem is therefore quite serious.
To overcome further losses to both the chicks and chickens special efforts have been made recently, such as improving feed quality (by adding micro algae to the feed), improve sanitation, and by building special breeding cages. The efforts so far have had a positive impact as shown by the increasing rate of survival in late 1997.
Table 1. Record on Breeding of Green Jungle Fowlin the TMII Bird Park
Table 2. Factor Caused Losses of Adult Chickens (1994 – 1997)
From the above discussion the following conclusions may be drawn:
The Green Jungle fowl in Indonesia has been undergoing serious genetic erosion, hence efforts must be stepped up to restore its population, to prevent further losses of valuable genetic materials in order to ensure sustainable utilization of this biological resource. To achieve this a lot more research needs to be done for a stronger scientific support to the efforts.