The Great Indian Bustard
The Great Indian Bustard

Save Great Indian Bustard before it is too late

The bustard has made it to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and was moved from endangered to critically endangered status in 2011.

In a dry forest patch in Siruguppa in Ballari district, a team of 12 Karnataka forest staffers is guarding the egg of a Great Indian Bustard as the parent birds take turns to protect it. The egg is of great conservational importance: it will take the population of the critically endangered species from six to seven in the state. The species has shown an alarming decline in numbers—from about 250 in 2008 to just about 150 left across India at the last count. According to the Union Environment Ministry, there are 128 birds in Rajasthan and less than 10 birds each in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The bustard has made it to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and was moved from endangered to critically endangered status in 2011. The clear threat to the Great Indian Bustard is from humans, who have hunted the birds out of their natural habitat of grasslands in 12 states. The grasslands are under cultivation, and renewable energy projects are being set up, especially in Gujarat and the Thar Desert. Solar parks and wind turbines are shrinking the bustard’s habitat, and crisscrossing power lines are a hazard for the heavy, low-flying birds that lack frontal vision, resulting in collision and electrocution. There are natural predators, too—eggs are often stolen from nests by foxes, mongooses, monitor lizards and vultures. At the same time, the chicks are preyed on by felines and jackals, making them a vulnerable species.

The Karnataka government is doing its bit by setting up three anti-poaching camps and raising awareness on the conservation of the species. The Indian government launched Project Bustard in 2012 along the lines of Project Tiger. While the latter has seen stupendous success, the former has not achieved
its goal. The Rajasthan government’s Project Great Indian Bustard has brought some hope with the captive breeding of 16 birds from eggs collected from the desert regions of Pokhran and Jaisalmer. If we have to save the bustard from extinction, these projects need to be stepped up with more sanctuaries, media visibility and public involvement. India has taken up Project Cheetah to bring back the big cat, while the Andean Condor has returned to its mountain home. Human aspirations and greed have driven many species to the edge, and it is up to humans to undo the damage.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com