I look forward to The Great Bustard returning to Wiltshire - Rare birds return to Britain after 130 years - I hear they taste just like chicken..
Tuesday November 4, 2003
Conservationists have been given the go-ahead for the reintroduction of the world's heaviest flying bird to the wilds of Britain.
If successful, the scheme could see the return of the great bustard after an absence of some 130 years.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has granted a licence for reintroduction which will mean the release of around 40 great bustard chicks a year for up to 10 years on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
The plain has been selected as large swaths of it have not been subjected to modern agricultural practices and have changed little since the 1870s - the last time the bird was resident in Britain.
The chicks will be raised, avoiding human contact, from eggs collected from nests that would have otherwise been destroyed or abandoned on farmland in Saratov, Russia - one of the few areas where bustards remain in the wild.
There are also bustards still found across eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal.
Male birds can grow up to a metre in length, weigh up to 18kg (40lb) and have a wingspan of 2.3 metres.
Ben Bradshaw, minister for nature conservation, said of the trial project: "It will be thrilling if this species of bird could be successfully reintroduced into the UK after so many years of being absent. We have consulted widely before issuing this licence with conservation bodies including English Nature, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds."
He added: "They are content that the interests of the birds will be safeguarded by the conditions of the licence."
Before the project can begin in the spring, licences need to be granted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). If approved the Cites licence will be granted before the import of the great bustard chicks into Britain.
A condition of the 10-year licence is that results of the project will be closely monitored and evaluated each year by Defra, in consultation with the RSPB, the Joint Nature Conservation Council and English Nature.