About Great Indian Bustard

About Great Indian Bustard

• The Great Indian Bustard is one of the largest flying birdsin the world.
• It is also one of the heaviest flying birds that weigh up to 15 kg.
• It is considered to be the flagship grassland speciesbeing endemic to the grasslands of India.
• Further the great Indian bustard is classified as “critically endangered” in the IUCN Red List.
• Accordingly it a “schedule I species” in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, requiring similar attentiongiven to tiger in India.
• Desert National Park being the primary habitat of the critically endangered GIB, it is declared the state bird of Rajasthan.

Habitat

• As mentioned Great Indian Bustard is endemic to grasslands of India.
• Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
• The Desert National Park of Rajasthan is a natural habitat for the Great Indian Bustard.
• Being a ‘nomad’, the bird moves around the landscape spanning about 8,000 sq km in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmerdistrict which is aptly called the Great Indian bustard arc.
• In the Thar, the Great Indian Bustard is concentrated mainly about 250 sq km of 3,162 km of the Desert National Park.
• Gujarat’s Kutch province is another home to the bird species which houses India’s second-largest bustard population.

Dwindling population

• While in 1980s there were about 1500-2000 GIBs, this number has dwindled to around 125 birds of which about 100 are in Rajasthan.
• The main reasons for dwindling populaion of Great Indian Bustard are:
✓ Loss of habitat due to declining grasslands
✓ Rampant poaching
✓ Renewable energy projects
✓ Lackadaisical approach in their conservation

Recovery and Conservation Plans

• In 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” in IUCN Red list.
• The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests prepared a species recovery programme for the Great Indian Bustard in 2017.
• The Rajasthan state government Rajasthan also launched the Project Great Indian Bustard to recover the population of the critically endangered bird. 
• Further it has been classified as schedule 1 species(endangered, threatened or of special concernunder Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 with same level of protection as tiger.

Failure of Conservation Plans

• Though GIB is classified as ‘schedule 1’ species under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, they have not received adequate attention like tiger.
• In 2016, the Central government decided to set up captive breeding and hatchery centres in Rajasthan. 
• However captive breeding is challenging for a large bird that is easily injured by living in cages.
• Captive breeding also prolongs the time taken to reach reproductive maturity leading to very low fertility rate.
• Further it is difficult to save GIB in situ as msost of the time it’s outside the protected areas where we have no control over grazing and the laying of the pipelines, wires and roads.

Way Forward

• Setting up the conservation breeding centres as per the 2017 plan.
• Necessary support for setting up of breeding centresshould be extended in expeditious way including land allotment and deploying a scientist to facilitate breeding training.
• While the breeding centres take time, incubation units, which take only few weeks, should be set up in the GIB arc.
• GIB should get the highest priority in the conservation plans.
Section : Environment & Ecology

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