The Great Bustard Group is a UK Registered Charity (number 1092515), working to reintroduce the species to the UK and to promote its interests throughout its range. Great Bustards were formerly very much part of British wildlife until the 1840s when they became extinct in Britain due to collectors and changes in agriculture. They have suffered similar dramatic declines in numbers across their range in the last 200 years and their global population is now estimated to be just 35,000 individuals. They are currently listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Globally Threatened Species. They are a missing piece of UK wildlife heritage, artificially removed from the ecosystem due to over zealous trophy hunters. There still remains plenty of habitat suitable for Great Bustards in the UK, in particular the rolling downland and arable fields of Wessex. However, their population decline and fragmentation means recolonisation is unlikely to occur without a reintroduction programme.
Background to the Project
The UK is obliged under EU legislation (Habitats Directive 1992) to reintroduce species where it is considered feasible. The GBG was set up in 1998 to explore the possibility of reintroducing the Great Bustard to the UK and commissioned a feasibility study accordingly. The study took several years to compile and investigated all academic and practical research on Great Bustards and reintroductions in general. It ably demonstrated that the UK offers suitable conditions for Great Bustards and that the project would not be detrimental to the donor population or the existing UK ecosystem. Based on the feasibility study, in 2003, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a 10-year trial-licence to release Great Bustards in the UK. Releases have taken place annually since 2004. Read about how we source the birds for the new British population.