Over the past 40 years, WPA has hugely contributed to the growth in knowledge and protection of the world's Galliformes. When WPA first started, little was known about many Galliforme species, especially in Asia where they relied on information collected by museum curators and Indian army officers going back to the 1890s. Little or nothing was known about the status of the 26 or so species in China, or the Megapodes in Australasia, or the Curassows from Latin America. Only in the UK and the United States was information on the status of game birds comparatively up to date. Therefore work needed to be done in the game birds countries of origins and in particular in Asia. WPA initiated and funded a number of projects in these areas to increase the knowledge of species.
A Scientific Advisory Group was established to advise the council on the value of proposed projects and assist with the projects to ensure that they had a good and proper scientific approach, and ensure the results were published. Over the years, five working groups were formed; Pheasant Working Group, Megapode Working Group, Grouse Working Group, Cracid Working Group, and Partridge, Quail and Francolin Working Group. These later become the five specialist groups that replaced WPA's advisory body and took over the role of the scientific content and international symposia. These specialist groups worked under the joint leadership of WPA and the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), with WPA as the umbrella organisation. WPA was thus a driving force for the creation of action plans of these five groups, for obtaining valuable information about the status, threats and the measures needed to protect species, and the disclosure of all this information in five-year action plans for each group. The action plan for pheasants was the first action plan for a group of birds that was produced. The relationship between the Specialist Groups, WPA and the IUCN SSC continued until 2014, when the IUCN decide that the advisory groups needed to be completely independent.
Initially research projects tended to be led by Western scientists, with the Association insisting that Asian scientists worked alongside them to increase their skills. Asian scientists and field workers gradually led more and more projects, and now local scientists lead the majority of projects run in these countries. International symposia were organised and financed through WPA and had a major impact on the progression to the use of local scientists.
Over the years, chapters of WPA have formed in many countries around the world. In 2005 the European chapters formed a committee to enable the development of conservation breeding activities. The European Conservation Breeding Group has expanded WPAs involvement in returning species to their countries of origins for conservation breeding programmes (e.g. Western tragopan and Cheer pheasant in India) and undertaking DNA research of captive populations.
As we enter the 5th decade of WPA, the Association is returning to its roots. We have reformed the Scientific Advisory Committee, and have turned much of our attention to the UK. In Asia, there are a number of projects running with a focus on funding projects in the poorer countries, whilst we continue to maintain links and publish work from the wealthier countries. In the UK, WPA has moved into the role of fundraiser with UK projects being led by scientists at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Details of upcoming fundraising events can be found on the news page.