Red Jungle Fowl

    Conservation of Red Jungle Fowl in Haryana

    rjfThe Red Jungle Fowl is found in India and is distributed approximately along with the Sal forests in the country. It was also found in Malaysia, Indonesia and adjoining countries of the eastern region from where it is reported to be extinct. Of late concerns had been raised regarding the genetic integrity and the purity of RJF in the wild and those under captivity. This matter regarding the purity of the wild RJF is important because wild genes often hold the key to disease resistance. The dilution with the genes of domestic fowl results in the endangerment of RJF.

    The red jungle fowl (RJF) is one of the four jungle fowls found in the Indian Subcontinent belonging to the genus Gallus, the other three being grey, Ceylon and Green. RJF is distinct in its appearance; its strikingly colourful plumes and majestic red comb makes it a beautiful bird. The presence of eclipse plumage differentiates this from other poultry birds.According to historical evidences RJF was first domesticated in Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley around 2500-2100 BC. From the place of domestication RJF moved to other parts of the world and has contributed to the evolution of various breeds of domestic chicken across the globe. India, despite being the origin of the red jungle fowl is importing poultry from outside. It is reported that the wild populations of RJF have been contaminated by domestic or feral chicken. However, it has been opined that the non-contaminated RJF still exists which need to be saved.

    With the decline in forest resources and rapid urbanization the population of many wildlife species has decreased to an alarming in low level. The need for the conservation of Galliformes species was highlighted at national and international level in the early part of 1990. The Haryana Forest Department, with a view to breed available local pheasant species and release them in nature established a pheasant breeding center at Morni, about 30 km from Panchkula during 1991-92 and 1992-93. Initially it was thought that the center would breed Red Jungle Fowls, Cheere pheasants, Kalij pheasants and Chakores. However, later the emphasis continued mainly on Red Jungle Fowls and Kalij pheasants.

    Morni Pheasant Breeding Center

    Six aviaries and a walk-in aviary have been constructed for breeding of the pheasants.During the years 1992-93 to 1995-96 few eggs were collected from the wild and hatched at the center. However, after 1996 most of the increase in the population of the bird is breeding in the center itself. Help of broody hen was taken for brooding & hatching purposes. During the year 1998-99 fourteen birds born in the summer of 1998 were released in the forest area. In 1999 seven birds and in 2000 again 10 birds were released. Thus in all 31 sub-audlt birds were released in the preselected proper habitat of the birds.

    Genetic Studies

    The Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun in November-December, 1998 suggested the Forest Department to take up the genetic studies on Red Jungle Fowls. The matter was discussed in the State Wildlife Advisory Board meeting held in January, 1999. For some reasons the work on genetic study could not be initiated. The Government of Haryana constituted a committee of officers for monitoring the genetic study of Red Jungle Fowls in 2001 and a proposal for funding the project sent to Government of India who provided the funds during 2002-03. The CDFD (Center for DNA Finger Printing and Diagnostics, an autonomous center of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India) Hyderabad was approached for taking up this study.

    Blood samples of twenty-five birds from Pheasant Breeding Center, Morni, twenty-one birds from the forest of Bir Shikargah, ten birds form the forest of Kalesar were collected between November, 2002 to December, 2003. In addition blood samples of domestic fowls from three villages around Bir Shikargah forests were collected. CDFD also requested for blood samples of Grey Jungle Fowls. These samples were made available by Chief Wildlife Warden, Karnataka and Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu from their zoos at Bannerghatta, Mysore and Vandalur.The preliminary genetic studies have been completed by CDFD. The future applied genetic studies and conservation studies need to be initiated systematically.

    Molecular Genetic Analysis of Red Jungle Fowl, Indian Domestic Chickens and their Relationships with other Gallus species

    J.Nagaraju, CDFD, Hyderbad

    In order to establish if there is any genetic mixing of the RJF and the domestic fowls, studies were undertaken by the Haryana Forest Department in collaboration with the Center from DNA Finger Printing and Diagnostics, Hyderabad. The study involved 31 wild bird form two different location 10 from Kalesar and 21 from Bir Shikargah forest area were used.

    Archeological studies have indicated that the mother of all poultry is South East Asian Red Jungle Fowl (RJF) [Gallus gallus]. The domestication of chicken has been observed at the Indus Valley [Zeuner 1963]. Domestication of chickens may have occurred in India as early as 3, 200 BC, and in China and Egypt as early as 1,400 BC. Gallus gallus has probably spread to other parts of the world when people domesticated the chicken. [Stevens, L., 1991, Peterson and Brisbin, 1999].However, questions are raised from Indus valley [West and Zhou, 1989], and multiple and independent events of domestication of chicken have been reported [Fumihito et. Al. 1996].

    The genus Gallus is composed of four wild species, G. gallus [RJF], G. varius [Green JF], G. sonneratti [Grey JF] and G. lafayettei [Lafayett JF].There are 5 sub species of Gallus gallus species, G. gallus species, G. g. gallus, G. g. spadiceus, G. g. bankiva, G. g. murghi and G. g. jabouillei [Niu et al; 2002]. According to estimation there are about 175 varieties of chickens grouped into 12 classes and approximately 60 breeds.

    Recently, concerns are being raised regarding the genetic integrity and conservation status of red jungle fowl in the wild and those held in avicultural collections. A variety of common diseases that affect poultry industry are also affecting the RJF. It is believed that the domestic chickens are hybridizing with the wild RJF. This development is a matter of concern for RJF conservationists because wild genes often hold the key to disease resistance and their dilution with domestic fowl genes results in endangerment of RJF.

    To understand whether the genetic mixing of populations are occurring and the RJF in the wild are admixtured populations and to find out the phylogenetic status of Indian domestic birds and RJFs in relation to other chickens held in different countries, we initiated molecular characterization using microsatellite and mitochondrial D-loop DNA sequencing.D-loop DNA sequencing. In the present study, we used 56 RJFs [10 from Kalesar forest area, 25 from Morni Hills area and 21 from Bir Shikargah area, Haryana], 4 Grey JFs [3 from Karnataka Zoos and one from Tamilnadu Zoo], and 16 domestic chickens [ from three villages of Haryana].

    Microsatellite marker analysis was carried out using 11 loci, all of which were polymorphic.The mean number of alleles per locus ranged from 2.91 [Grey Jungle Fowls] to 6.09 [Bir Shikargah population], showing a moderate heterozygosity. The heterozygosity values ranged from 0.51 in Kalesar population to 0.61 Bir Shikargah population. The Fixation Index [FST] values calculated using the F-STAT programme [Goudet, J. 1995] suggested a moderate relationship among the domestic bird populations. Comparatively, by FST value the genetic variation among RJFs [0.1428 to 0.2399] was more than the variation found among domestic birds [0.1116 to 0.1365] FST value above 0.3 between domestic birds and FJF [as well as Grey JF] indicated a very high genetic differentiation between these two populations suggesting the cross-hybridization between RJFs and domestic birds has not occurred.

    The D-loop DNA sequencing of mitochondrial DNA was carried out using the primers that amplify the regions reported earlier in the literature. The Phylogenetic tree constructed by using maximum likelihood method for the Indian RJF and Indian domestic birds showed that there were two major clusters of chicken, the four Grey JFs formed a cluster, while the rest of the birds including domestic chickens as well as RJF formed the second cluster. Within the RJF cluster two prominent sub cluster were noticed, one with domestic birds and another Consisting of RJF. Almost all the domestic birds were having little genetic difference amongst themselves. These domestic birds carried a transversion of T to C, which is not found in any of the RJF [except for one bird collected from Morni Hills area].Separation of Desi birds from RJF in a separate sub-sub cluster suggests that there is no cross-hybridization of the RJF with domestic birds.However, the results suggest that domestic birds share a common origin with RJF or they have been derived from the later.