Monasteries and Pheasants in Western Sichuan - China

The traditional beliefs and way of life of Tibetan Buddhists has conserved wildlife for generations by preventing persecution and protecting habitats. In Daocheng county, sacred groves are found near some monasteries and villages and provide secure habitats for several pheasant species, as well as many other birds and mammals. White-eared pheasants, blood pheasants and Tibetan partridge are common sites around the monasteries, and are frequently fed by the Buddhists.

Studies commenced: 2002

Since 2002, a number of monasteries have been assessed and re-assessed for pheasant numbers. More pheasants were encountered in sacred groves than in nearby areas, and in successive years pheasants have been found in sites where they were previously absent. 


About 30 years ago several of the sacred groves suffered destruction to varying degrees and as they have recovered, the abundance of some pheasant species has increased. Economic development has resulted in some over-exploitation of some of the habitats outside of the sacred groves. Tibetan rural communities are reliant on firewood, timber for building houses and other natural resources, and so the availability of sacred groves as wildlife refuges is very important. 

Studies conducted at Daocheng indicate that pheasants can be resilient to traditional levels of habitat alteration in the absence of hunting. The monks use areas in the forest surrounding the sacred groves for firewood, yet the pheasants continue to thrive in the area. Some local families burn yak droppings, shrubs and turf in their fires, thus conserving the forests even more.

The concern for the future comes from an increasing human pressure to develop tourism in these previously remote areas. This suggests that the traditional monastery forests and their sacred groves will become crucial for the species that inhabit them.

Key species

White eared-pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon
Blood pheasant Ithaginis cruentus
Tibetan partridge Perdix hidgoniae