In focus: Threat to Great Indian Bustard

In focus: Threat to Great Indian Bustard

Introduction

  • The Great Indian Bustard in India has witnessed a rapid decline in their numbers from 1500-2000 in the 1980s to barely 150 left currently.

 

About Great Indian Bustard

  • Introduction
    • The Great Indian Bustard is the flagship grassland species of India.
    • It is one of the largest flying birds in the world and India’s heaviest flying bird.
    • The male bird weighs upto 12-15 kg and female bird up to 5-8 kg.
    • The breeding season spans from March to October
    • The species primarily feed on meswak, sewan grass.
  • Habitat
    • The grassland species till about 1980s spread across the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
    • Currently they are confined to certain pockets including
    • Great Indian bustard arc in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan including the Desert National Park which is the natural habitat of the species.
    • It is declared the state bird of Rajasthan.
    • Grasslands of Kutch in Gujarat which is home to second-largest bustard population in India.
    • Arid regions of Maharashtra (Solapur), Karnataka (Bellary and Haveri) and Andhra Pradesh (Kurnool)
  • Status
    • It is classified as “critically endangered” in the IUCN Red List since 2011.
    • Accordingly it is classified as “schedule I species” in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, requiring similar attention given to tiger in India.

 

Reasons for dwindling population

  • Loss of habitat due to declining grasslands
    • Changes in desert ecology due to unsustainable levels of cattle population in the area due to traditional pastoral life has led to locals perceiving bird conservation as a threat to their livelihood.
  • Danger from predators
    • Feral dogs and wild pigs.
  • Rampant poaching and hunting
  • Renewable energy projects.
    • Collision with windmills and electrocution by low-hanging power transmission lines
  • Lackadaisical approach in their conservation
  • Lack of cooperation between states
  • Low fertility
    • The population growth of the species is slow with females laying only one egg per year

 

Conservation Efforts

  • Protection
    • In 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” in IUCN Red list calling for highest level of protection as schedule 1 species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Recovery project
    • The Ministry of Environment and Forests prepared a species recovery programme for the Great Indian Bustard in 2017.
    • Project Great Indian Bustard was launched in 2014 jointly by Rajasthan government, Wildlife Institute of India and CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) to recover the population of the critically endangered bird.
  • Conservation
    • Captive breeding: In 2016, the Central government decided to set up captive breeding and hatchery centres in Rajasthan.

 

Challenges

  • Captive breeding is challenging for a large bird because it is easily 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 most 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 centres should 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.
  • Radio tags to control poaching and hunting of the bird
  • Installations of bird diverters every five metres to prevent the loss of life.
  • Relocation of windmills
  • Laying of power lines underground
Section : Environment & Ecology

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