Govt to ink MoU for bustard breeding, hatchery centre on Wednesday

The long-awaited MoU to set up India’s first Great India Bustard (GIB) captive breeding and hatchery centre will be inked on Wednesday.

The decision to set up such centres in Rajasthan was taken by the central government in 2016 keeping in mind the declining population of Great Indian Bustard (GIB), which is listed as critically endangered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

In April 2017, the state government and officials of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had finalised Sorsan area in Kota for setting up the first GIB captive breeding centre and a hatchery centre (egg collection and hatching) at Nokh (Jaisalmer), which later was approved by chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

In view of the drastic decline in the number of GIBs, which is the state bird of Rajasthan, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), in consultation with Rajasthan Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Worldwide Fund for Nature-India and Bombay Natural Society (BNHS) has developed a recovery programme for critically endangered species.

The GIB (Ardeotis nigriceps) has a global population of fewer than 200 birds with a viable presence in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.

“A sum of Rs 33 crore will be spent by the central and state governments for the next five years on staff engagement, conservation breeding, applied research, capacity-building and awareness, pilot habitat, management and creation of inviolate space,” said a senior forest official on the condition of anonymity.

The central government will provide financial support for developing and executing the project for 35 years, which will be shared by the state government – an approximate cost of Rs 150 crore would be required for the long-term conservation breeding programme.

He continued the MoEFCC will construct the conservation breeding centre, running and its maintenance; the state government will work on training, international travel and infrastructure; and implementation of conservation breeding programme will be taken care of by WII.

The objective of the programme is conservation breeding being reintroduced in safe habitats and supplementation of the wild population, and ensuring effective implementation of GIB and Lesser Florican conservation breeding and research programme.

Under the conservation programme, captive breeding and research facility with functional incubation, hatchery, chick rearing and adult bird cages, food processing room will be created. “A 14-member steering committee will be constituted headed by additional director general (Wildlife) MoEFCC as chairperson, and members such as director WII, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan etc will be made.

An official said initially the target is to collect a minimum of 5-10 eggs every year for the first 10-12 years for effective conservation of the species. “Under the project, officials will be sent abroad for training at international conservation centres,” he said.

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