India’s first captive breeding centre for Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) -- Rajasthan’s state bird -- will be set up at Sorsan in Kota district, and a hatchery centre at Nokh in Jaisalmer.
At a workshop held here on Friday, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), World Wildlife Fund and state forest department officials and experts recommended the places. Chief minister Vasundhara Raje approved the recommendation.
The experts included Keith Scotland from the United Kingdom, Juan Carlos Alonso (Spain), Ranjit Singh, Asad Rehmani, YB Jhala and Suthirtho (WII), Valmik Thapar (naturalist, conservationist) and Harsh Vardhan.
“In a month or two, a memorandum of understanding will be inked between government of India, WII and the state government. The MoU was prepared by WII and sent to the state government; we have incorporated a few points and submitted it back,” a senior forest department official said.
The Centre had decided last year to set up such centres in Rajasthan considering the declining population of GIBs, listed as critically endangered under the wildlife Act, 1972. The WII had identified around 10 locations in Rajasthan to set up the breeding centre.
From more than 1000 a few decades back, the number of GIBs (Ardeotis nigriceps), locally called Godawan, dropped to 745 in 1978, 600 in 2001, 300 (2008) and 125 (2013), according to the 2014 census. Rajasthan records the highest population of GIBs, though they are found in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
“The birds lay eggs in the wild, which cannot be shifted immediately and need to be placed in a hatchery. It will take around two years to build the captive breeding centre, so initially work will start in Jaisalmer,” the official said. “Sorsan is the best site for captive breeding as weather is humid, which is good for breeding.”
On experts’ involvement, he said, “Scotland is already running a Houbara Bustard breeding centre in Abu Dubai, and Alanso is working on bustards for many years.”
On the need for setting up a breeding centre, the official said, “In natural conditions, the breeding of GIBs is slow and even their survival chances are less, be it due to predators or other reasons.”
Taking note of the declining population of the GIBs, the Centre had initiated the Species Recovery Programme (SRP) in 2015-16, and sanctioned ₹108.93 lakh in 2015-16 and ₹129.94 lakh for 2016-17.
“To protect the species, the state government is developing additional closures and grasslands, and constructing predator-proof fencing in breeding areas,” the official said.
“Till date we have renovated old closures on 4700 hectares and constructed new ones on 3175 hectares. More closures will be developed on 1000 hectares.”