Scientists pitch for wild breeding of Great Indian Bustard

London, June 5 (IANS) Some near-extinct species like the Great Indian Bustard should be encouraged to breed in the wild rather than in captivity, new research says.

The study looks at the critically-endangered Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps).

Once widespread in peninsular India, this majestic and rare bird is now restricted to a few areas — where it faces major threats from agriculture, power-lines and hunting.

The Great Indian Bustard has declined from more than 1,000 in 1970 to as few as 100-200 today.

“We show that only urgent and effective action to protect and extend the Great Indian Bustard’s natural habitat can prevent extinction in the wild,” said lead researcher Paul Dolman from the University of East Anglia.

“Our research challenges the assumption that when a species is perilously close to extinction in the wild, it is always a good idea to set up a captive breeding population,” Dolman added.

The research team used population models to evaluate the potential effectiveness of a captive-breeding.

Without conservation in the wild there is no point in captive breeding as the birds would be trapped in captivity with no hope of returning to nature.

Effective conservation offers a better chance to save this species, without diverting energy and funds away from the urgent action needed in its last remaining habitats.

“India cannot now afford to lose a single bird or egg in this cause. The only option is to implement a rigorous programme of habitat conservation and associated management measures to give the species the chance to increase its numbers in the wild,” said Nigel Collar from BirdLife International, a global NGO.

“Our research reveals the importance of objectively weighing up potential outcomes of captive breeding and comparing them with efforts to support species in the wild,” Dolman said.

The study appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

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