Birth of Corona in Jaisalmer enthuses bird lovers

Jaipur, April 6 (IANS) Amid all the Covid-19 gloom, a Great Indian Bustard (GIB) chick born at the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer a week ago, has been named Corona.

Corona was hatched at an especially developed hatchery, described by forest officials as the make-shift maternity-ward for this critically endangered bird species. Only 150 Great Indian Bustard are reported to be surviving today. Of them, 98 per cent are confined to this desert park.
It’s an ex situ conservation project to breed Great Indian Bustard to save this bird from extiction. Close vigil is kept on male and female birds’ courtship in this grassland habitat. As the mating gets over, the vigil shifts to their nests, according to Harsh Vardhan, an environmentalist.
As the nest is made on open ground, it invites predators. Crows, kites, foxes, monitor lizards and even snakes are potential threats in this region, says Harsh Vardhan.
Through powerful spot-scopes, experts keep round the clock watch over the nest. The egg is picked up soon after it’s laid. It is rushed to the maternity-ward located by side of Sam village and placed in the designed hatchery. Most modern facilities have been pooled to ensure hatching of the egg.
Corona, the 10th chick to be born in the ex situ conditions, is the first for the 2020 season. Other nine were hatched during the 2019 season, with first chick coming out of the egg in February 2019.
Interestingly, Corona is born to the female GIB, collared with a satellite transmitter several months ago. Two females GIBs had been fitted with the device to ascertain their movement from one habitat to another, and to allow experts to study their behaviours, said Harsh.
The conservation project, launched in January 2019 through the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
However, the Rajasthan Forest Department had kept sitting over the proposal for years. It moved only after a lot of hue and cry globally as experts questioned the delay by the state Forest Department in launching the captive breeding of this species.
The WII had invited on-field expertise of the Abu Dhabi-based agency, known as National Avian Research Centre (NARC), to help in the GIB conservation breeding in this park. The NARC team handled most critical aspects of the project and also trained many Indian scientists in techniques, which were alien to Indians for GIB’s captive breeding.
Some Indian scientists were also sent to Abu Dhabi to learn advanced techniques of breeding protocol.
The project is funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest. the fund is channelised through the Rajasthan Forest Department.
If the project runs for a decade, it will help create a decent GIB gene pool. The initial chicks, hand-imprinted, will be kept at large aviaries. But the next lot will not be hand-printed and released in the wild keep the rare bird species alive, says Harsh.
Y. Jhala, WII Dean, is the head of the captive breeding project, and Arindam Tomar, Rajasthan’s Chief Wildlife Warden, the administrative head of the initiative. In fact, Tomar had strived hard to turn the initiative into reality.