Protecting the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards!

Protecting the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards!
There are around 150 Great Indian Bustards left across the country, Union Minister of State for Environment, Ashwini Kumar Choubey informed the Lok Sabha on Monday, March 14. Bustards are large, terrestrial birds that mainly live in dry grassland areas.

According to a study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India, there are a total of 150 of the bird species, of which 128 birds are in Rajasthan. Further, the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka account for less than 10 birds each.

Great Indian Bustards

Great Indian Bustards or Ardeotis nigriceps can easily be distinguished by its black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head. They have a brownish body, and the wings are marked with black, brown, and grey.

The State bird of Rajasthan has been listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972, and provides the highest degree of legal protection to the species from hunting. It is also enlisted in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016). The Ministry of Environment and Forests has also identified it as a species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats.

Threats to the bird

The Great Indian Bustard has been included in Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) on the basis of a proposal submitted by India. These birds face the threat of excessive hunting, habitat loss, compounded with very slow life-history traits, all of which have caused a decline in their population. According to the Wildlife Institute of India, the largest population of about 150 birds occurs in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan. Other populations are less than 10 birds each, occurring in Kachchh (Gujarat), Solapur and Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh), and Bellary (Karnataka).

Protecting Great Indian Bustards

The Government of India is taking several measures to protect one of the rarest birds in the world. The National Guidelines for Recovery of Bustards 2013 advocated a multi-pronged approach involving stringent protection and research-informed management of breeding enclosures. It also involved the local communities in conservation through incentives and outreach and the establishment of captive populations as insurance against extinction and possible reintroduction.

According to Union Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a site for establishment of a Conservation Breeding Centre for the Great Indian Bustard has been identified at Kota District, Rajasthan in consultations with State Forest Departments of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Wildlife Institute of India, and international experts, under the project titled ‘Habitat Improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard-an integrated approach’.

Further, currently, a satellite conservation breeding facility with incubator, hatcher, chick-rearing, and housing for captive birds has been set up at Sam, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. A total of 16 GIB chicks (artificially hatched from eggs collected from the wild) are being reared presently in the satellite conservation breeding facility at Sam, Jaisalmer Rajasthan.

To provide better protection to their population, Important habitats of Great Indian Bustards are designated as National Parks/Sanctuaries. The species has been identified for conservation efforts under the component ‘Species Recovery Programme’ of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS)-Development of Wildlife Habitat.

More Initiatives

The Ministry has also taken up an initiative on conservation breeding of the Great Indian Bustard in collaboration with Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra Forest Departments and technical support from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

It has also constituted a Task Force for suggesting Eco- friendly measures to mitigate impacts of power transmission lines and other power transmission infrastructures on wildlife including the Great Indian Bustard.