The critically endangered bird is down to just 160-odd individuals, most of them surviving in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.
The great Indian bustard has been in deep trouble for a while. Once found across India’s grasslands and dry landscapes, the critically endangered bird is now down to just 160-odd individuals, most of them surviving in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan state.
Even in this last stronghold, survival is hard. Agricultural fields and a growing network of power lines and wind turbines have taken over their habitats, while predators like dogs destroy the eggs that the ostrich-like birds painstakingly lay down. In a last ditch effort, wildlife researchers along with the forest department have started a hunt for the birds’ eggs in Rajasthan to begin the process of captive breeding. On June 20, they managed to collect two bustard eggs from the wild.
“A beginning has been made and I hope we are able to save the bird,” Arindam Tomar, the state’s chief wildlife warden, told Mongabay.
The Wildlife Institute of India, Rajasthan forest department and India’s environment ministry have entered into an agreement to build two captive breeding facilities for the great Indian bustards (Ardeotis nigriceps). The main, bigger facility is being constructed in the village of Sorsan in southeast Rajasthan, while a second, smaller facility is being built in Jaisalmer, in the west, close to where many of the wild birds breed.
The buildings will take a year or two to come up, Tomar said, but the hunt for eggs is on because the teams “did not want to miss this year’s breeding season.”
“That was the urgency of doing it,” he said. “There are only 150 great Indian bustards surviving in the wild, so every day is precious. We don’t have any captive population of great Indian bustards at all, we don’t have them in any zoos or anywhere else.”
Mongabay contacted two experts from the Wildlife Institute of India involved in the project; one declined to comment and the other did not respond.