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Under an integrated collaborative effort, the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) along with the state governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra will soon undertake an artificial breeding programme for the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), one of the critically endangered flying bird species in the world, to boost the population of the species, a senior official of the MoEFCC said.
Once spread across the length and breadth of the country, the population of GIB, scientifically referred to as Ardeotis Nigriceps, is now concentrated in the three western states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The operations to artificially breed GIBs will commence next year and take place across the three states, the MoEFCC official said, adding that the eventual release of the bird from captivity to semi-captivity will initially take some time.
"The first initiative, as part of the programme, will be to establish a captive stock of the bird, which will lay eggs. This will be followed by hatching of the eggs, which would then go on to become chicks. The chicks would then be reared to become adults, which again after mating in captivity, will lay eggs before being released in semi-captivity," the official said, describing the nature of breeding.
Technical expertise for the breeding programme, the official stated, would be provided by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), an autonomous institution of the MoEFCC.
Explaining the nuances of technical expertise being offered by WII, the official said, "The institute will provide expertise in planning, conserving, breeding, hatching of egg to bird and the species' release from captivity to semi-captivity. Scientific information related to the ecology of the species, its physiology, functional dynamics and behavioural aspects will also be given by the institute."
The initial expenditure for the programme would be around Rs 8-9 crore, the MoEFCC official said, adding that this would be followed by efforts by respective state governments in preparing conducive habitat like arid and semi-arid grasslands.
A forest department official in the Gujarat government said that land has been identified to undertake the artificial breeding programme in Kutch district of Gujarat.
Though the GIB, as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's largest global environmental organisation, is built to survive in harsh weather conditions, they have been exterminated from almost 90 per cent of their former range owing to loss of habitat and poaching.
Amongst one of the largest flying bird species found in the world today, GIB can easily be distinguished by its black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head.
The birds generally nest and breed during September and November. Standing a metre in height and weighing nearly 15 kilos, the Great Indian Bustard was once found in large number across the grasslands of India and Pakistan, but is now restricted to small and isolated fragments of the remaining habitat.
The grasslands of Abdasa and Mandvi talukas of Kutch district in Gujarat support some of its population. The other sanctuary with the species includes Naliya in Kutch.
Its number in Gujarat is less than 100 while, its national count is in the range of 200-300. The Gujarat government had, in June 2013, initiated satellite tracking of GIB under the aegis of WII to understand the movement of this rare bird and its preferred habitat. WII had, in June 2013, initiated satellite tracking of GIB to understand the movement of this rare bird and its preferred habitat.
GIB is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972, and its global trade is prohibited.
Concerned over its rapidly deteriorating population, the Union government had prepared a recovery programme in 2012, for three species of bustard - Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican and Lesser Florican.