Understanding the status of fragmented populations and predicting their fate is an increasingly important part of bird conservation. Population viability analysis (PVA) can help in this process and is widely used for assessing the extinction risk faced by threatened species and for finding the key factors affecting population status and survival prospects. From 1982 to 2004, 14 scientists studied the population of the globally threatened Cabot's Tragopan Tragopan caboti in Wuyanling National Natural Reserve (WNNR), south-east China and collected life-history data on the population. Using VORTEX, we analysed the viability of the population in the reserve and this predicted that the population size will increase for the next 50 years and will then show a very slight decline for the next 50 years. The loss of heterozygosity is predicted to be 14%, suggesting that the population may not be viable in the long term. Sensitivity analyses showed that nest loss is the most important factor affecting population size and the survival probability of the population, which is supported by field studies. Though the new evidence shows that Cabot's Tragopan can build nests in spruce forest successfully, broad-leaf forest is still necessary for them for foraging, especially at some times of the year. The simulation also shows that the probability of survival and the size of the population will decrease markedly if the extent of suitable habitat is reduced even relatively slowly (such as 0.1% per year). Overall, we conclude that the PVA has provided very informative guidance to future management and research on Cabot's Tragopan at Wuyanling National Nature Reserve.
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