Great Indian Bustard chick hatched artificially
A Great Indian Bustard chick has been artificially hatched in the Jaisalmer breeding centre of the extremely endangered bird in a rare achievement.
A joint team of the Rajasthan forest department and the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) carried out the hatching as part of the environment ministry’s species recovery programme.
The number of GIB, which was almost named India’s national bird, in Rajasthan has fallen to just 140 in 2018 from over 1,000 in the 1980s although, according to some experts, the number could actually be under 100. Habitat loss is the prime reason for the sharp decline in their numbers.
The Desert National Park is the last abode of the state’s official bird with it vanishing from Ajmer and Baran districts. The GIB, listed as endangered species under the Wildlife Protection Act, is also found in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, but the population in those states is minuscule.
Rajasthan forest minister Sukram Bishnoi said six eggs were collected at the Jaisalmer centre to create a so-called founder population of the Great Indian Bustard in the state, and that from these six, a chick has been successfully hatched artificially.
“The chick is healthy and her care is being looked after by experts,” he said, adding that eggs of GIBs sometimes get eaten by predators and the initiative of artificial hatching is aimed at protecting the species.
Bishnoi said the forest department collected the six eggs after receiving approval from the environment ministry, and added that approval has been sought to collect four more eggs. “It is the first step out of 100 for successful recovery of a bird species,” said Bikram Grewal, an ornithologist, birdwatcher and conservationist. “The real challenge is to bring up the bird chick without its mother, enable its survival till maturity, release it and ensure its adaptability to natural habitat.”
Delhi-based birdwatcher Nikhil Devsar said that artificial hatching as a means to revive a species is a slow process. “A bustard lays one egg a year and there are a very few GIB left. It will take 10 years to get 20 birds and that is not enough. It is a long and tough fight to revive the GIB population.”
A senior Rajasthan forest department official, who asked not to be named, said the artificially hatched chick is under round-the-clock observation of experts from the Wildlife Institute and from Abu Dhabi, where a successful breeding centre has been set up for another species of bustard, the Houbara.
Explaining the hatching process, the official said, a GIB egg requires 28 days of incubation, during which the egg is placed in an incubator to keep it warm and under the right humidity levels. “The chick is being given diet as that of given to Houbara Bustard and is healthy till date,” this person added.
Terming artificial hatching as a “very sophisticated” operation, VB Mathur, director Dehradun-based WII, said: “In this process we are trying to mimic nature against all odds. The ultimate success is when the chick becomes an adult.”
“Under the environment ministry’s species recovery program (SRP) 22-24 eggs of the GIBs were to be collected in three years to create founder population – if 10 eggs are collected this year, then the remaining 10 to 12 eggs will be collected the next year. We are trying to reduce the three-year project to two years to create founder population,” the forest department official said.
A tripartite agreement was signed in 2018 between the WII, state forest department and union environment ministry to setup India’s first Captive Breeding Centre for GIBs at Sorsan area in Kota and a hatchery centre (egg collection and hatching) at Ramdevra (Jaisalmer).
(With inputs from Nihi Sharma in Dehradun)