A native to Jhabua, it is also bred in Bihar’s Gaya and tribal regions of Jharkhand in a limited way, though it is becoming more and more difficult due to its high mortality.
When former India cricket team captain MS Dhoni decided to take to poultry farming a couple of years ago and ordered as many as 2,000 Kadaknath chicks from Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, where it is mostly found, the attention was drawn towards the Indian breed of chicken, also called Kali Masi and known for its nutritional value.
Mostly jet black, these birds are mostly bred by the rural and tribal people. A native to Jhabua, it is also bred in Bihar’s Gaya and tribal regions of Jharkhand in a limited way, though it is becoming more and more difficult due to its high mortality.
With its germ plasm under threat due to changing environment, scientists are now working to preserve it before the very delicate bird, which lacks resistance to climatic changes, moves into the bracket of endangered species. Due to growing forest degradation, drought situation and long and intense spells of summer, it faces high mortality, as its heat resistance is low.
Now Kadaknath is among four bird species under the India-Japan Cooperative Science Programme (IJCSP) selected for in-situ conservation of germ plasm. The other species from India taken up for research is Aseel Peela, another native chicken breed known for its fighting qualities and delicacy. The model species from Japan for study are Okinawa Rail and Golden Eagle.
“India is home for about 1,300 wild bird species, and some of them are under looming threat of extinction due to various anthropogenic and climatic reasons. In addition, India is also a leading country in poultry production, but facing emerging challenges to safeguard the elite and native germ plasm of these economically important birds,” said Dr Ram Pratap Singh, associate professor & head, department of life science, Central University of South Bihar (CUSB), the team leader from India for IJCSP, while the Japanese team will be led by Dr Mayako Fujihara from Kyoto University, Japan.
“India is yet to initiate any such programme of in-situ germ plasm conservation for birds in a systematic manner, due to which birds like Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican and many indigenous species of chicken and duck are under severe threat of extinction,” Singh said, adding CUSB was the only central university to have got a project under the scheme.
The proposal is about developing male and female gamete preservation technology for avian conservation. “Our team will develop technology for male gamete preservation, whereas the Japanese team will develop technology for female gamete preservation. The Indian team will visit Japan twice a year to train them about the newly developed techniques. Similarly, the Japanese team will visit India twice a year for providing training on female germ plasm preservation. The technique developed for male and female germplasm preservation would be a game changer in the area of avian conservation, including poultry. It has huge economic potential also,” he said.
CUSB vice-chancellor Kameshwar Nath Singh commended the university’s associate professor for the achievement and said such research projects would have direct implication on the society, as poultry has always been key to improving nutrition status in India by providing protein and mineral supplements.