The Return of the Great Bustard


The Great Bustard has been extinct in England for many years. Steve Myersco and Christy VanArragon look at attempts to bring this bird back to England.

Transcript


Voice 1

Hello and welcome to Spotlight. I'm Steve Myersco.

Voice 2

And I'm Christy Van Arragon. This programme uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

"A young boy walks along a country road in England. He is pulling a huge bird along the road. The leg of the bird is broken but the bird is still alive. The young boy walks a long way. He arrives home. His father is at home with some other men. They have been working in the fields all day. They take the bird from the boy. It will feed many people. It is huge. One of the men kills the bird by breaking its neck. But this bird is the last of its kind. The Great Bustard is dead."

Voice 2

Henry Blackmore wrote this story in 1856. It speaks of the death of one of the last Great British Bustards in England. The Great Bustard has a scientific name, Otis Tarda. It is not surprising that this bird disappeared. English people hunted this bird for its wonderful meat. They killed large numbers of them. But bird experts, ornithologists, are now helping to bring the Great Bustard back to England.

Voice 1

The group of ornithologists we are talking about is The Great Bustard Group. They have established a new home for the birds. It is on the Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire England. They chose this area of England because it is a good environment for the birds - with a good supply of food.

Voice 2

The British army uses a large area of Salisbury Plain for training. Citizens are not permitted to use this area. This is good news for the birds. It means there are protected. Only soldiers training with the army can use the area. These soldiers try to stay away from the birds. This lack of people means less danger for wildlife. Other rare birds have survived well in this environment.

Voice 1

So what makes this bird so special? Well the Great Bustard is the world's heaviest flying bird. Male birds can weigh up to 20 kilograms. They can measure over a metre long. The birds make a noise similar to that of a dog. They can also live for up to 25 years. This makes them one of nature's longest-lived birds. The Great Bustard is also very rare. Ornithologists estimate that less than fifty thousand Great Bustards exist in the world today.

Voice 2

The new English group - or colony - will help to protect the bird for the future. The new colony is the result of an international effort involving experts in Britain and Russia. So British and Russian ornithologists are working together. All the birds in the English colony come from Saratov, in southern Russia. Scientists send about 20 young birds from Saratov to England every year. The first birds came to England in 2004. More young birds have been brought to England every summer since then.

Voice 1

Life is also difficult for the Great Bustard in Russia. Farming, and expanding human populations are pushing the Great Bustard out of its natural environment. Ornithologists estimate that only about eight thousand Great Bustards survive in Russia. The Russian ornithologists work with the farmers in Saratov. Eggs can easily be destroyed by farming equipment. So any farmer who finds eggs in his fields informs the ornithologists. The ornithologists then rescue the eggs.

Voice 2

So what happens to the birds after they arrive in England? Well first of all they need to be quarantined - that is, kept away from other creatures. This makes sure that they do not carry any diseases into the country. After this the job of teaching the young birds begins.

Voice 1

The experts use a process called ‘isolation rearing'. This means that the young birds do not have any links with humans. Young birds often form an attachment to anyone who feeds and looks after them. This is called ‘imprinting'. In the wild ‘imprinting' is very important. It means that a young bird will always follow its parents. But for the birds in England ‘imprinting' would mean becoming attached to humans. This would prevent them from learning to avoid humans later. It would prevent them from becoming truly wild.

Voice 2

When the birds are about four months old the project leaders release the birds into the wild. The area given to the birds is over 780 square kilometres. The Great Bustards are slowly making the area their home. But this is taking a long time. This is because the birds have not been able to produce their own young. A male Great Bustard is only able to reproduce when it reaches five years old.

Voice 1

Five years after the first Great Bustards came to England, the birds were finally ready to reproduce. In early June 2009 the ornithologists announced success. Two baby Great Bustards had hatched from their eggs. This was the first time that any Great Bustard had hatched in England since 1832. David Waters is the director of the Great Bustard Group. He said,

Voice 3

‘This is a great step forward for our project. It is also great news for wildlife in the UK, for the Great Bustards and for me. It has been a hard struggle to get this far. But to see Great Bustards born here for the first time in 177 years is wonderful.'

Voice 2

Wildlife experts estimate that the world loses about forty thousand different plants and animals every year. These creatures become extinct. They no longer exist anywhere in the world. This is a serious matter because nature depends on balance. When one animal disappears it has an effect on the whole environment.

Voice 1

Many experts believe that individual countries cannot solve this problem. They believe that the international community needs to act together. The Great Bustard project is an example of this sort of action. People who enjoy wildlife hope that more such projects will develop in the future. They hope that the world will become a safe environment for all creatures - great and small.

Voice 2

The writers of today's programme were Elizabeth Lickiss and Steve Myersco. The producer was Steve Myersco. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. This programme is called ‘The Return of the Great Bustard'. Computer users can see this, and other programmes on our website at http://www.radio.english.net. You can also write to us on the website about projects like this where you live. Or you can email as at radio@english.net. Thank you for joining us for today's Spotlight programme. Goodbye.

Comments


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Fabio Oliveira
said on January 01, 2010

hey folks!
Just I can tell, Good work! All this SL (spotlight) maked for our community.

Thanks!

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vukhucthienthanh
said on December 18, 2010

oh !this is the first time i hear about the great Bustard. Hope someday i can see them in my country hehe

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hunxen
said on February 29, 2016

thank sportlight alot