Punjab zoo to breed Shaheen falcons
Chattbir Zoo in Punjab will soon breed the endangered Shaheen falcons, popularly known as 'baaz' and revered by the Sikh community as a prized possession of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikhs.
This is for the first time in the country that the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has approved such a project aiming to enhance the population of the bird, which is on the decline largely due to consumption of DDT-infested preys.
"We selected Chattbir as a coordinating zoo for the falcons' breeding programme primarily keeping in mind the bird's historical importance to the Sikh community," CZA member secretary B R Sharma said.
A technical committee of the CZA, headed by Wildlife Additional Director General M B Lal of the environment ministry, in its recent meeting cleared Rs 56 lakhs for the first phase of the project.
Sharma explained, since one of the many titles bestowed on the guru was 'chittay baaj wala' the keeper of the white falcon we felt which other state but Punjab can understand the historical as well as religious value attached to the endangered bird.
Dharminder Sharma, field director of the Chattbir Zoo, said, "We have already identified two acres of land for the falcon's breeding. Initially we will breed a pair of Shaheen falcons to be either procured locally or from some other zoos abroad."
"Work on the project has already begun. We had sought Rs 6 crore from the CZA for the programme to be stretched for the next 10 years. However, CZA has decided to release the fund in phases," he said.
Sharma said talks are being held with the directors of Sweden and Dubai zoos for technical guidance on how to raise and breed falcons.
"We have also decided to rope in the services of Shahid Khan of Jaipur, who has an exclusive rights to keep falcons in the country. Breeding will be out of bounds for the public," the zoo official added.
Khan who visited Chandigarh recently said, "Falcons are very delicate birds. But pesticide use has hit it very hard. Studies have shown that the pesticide DDT affects the thickness of the falcons' eggs, resulting in failure to incubate and decline in population.
"Besides poaching and illegal trade have also taken a toll on its numbers."
The highly endangered bird is classified under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act along with the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The Shaheen is a resident bird while most of the falcons migrates to India seasonally from Russia and parts of central Asia.