Emergency campaign launched to save the Great Indian Bustard from extinction
Wildlife organisations have got together to launch a campaign to save the Great Indian Bustard which has come under the critically endangered list with less than 150 individuals surviving
Wildlife organisations have got together to launch a campaign to save the Great Indian Bustard which in recent years has come under the critically endangered list. With the total global population of the Great Indian Bustard reaching and all time low at fewer than 150 individuals, this campaign is the need of the hour.
Many experts believe that these birds might be the first species to become extinct in Independent India. This grassland species is extinct from 95% of its range now.
Rajasthan is the last stronghold of the Great Indian Bustard. Fewer than 150 birds survive, of which about 100 live in the Thar Desert. Gujarat has the next largest population of the bird – between 10 and 25 individuals
The wildlife organisations that have launched the campaign are The Corbett Foundation in collaboration with Conservation India and Sanctuary Nature Foundation.
The campaign aims at highlighting the overhead power transmission lines that result in the death of these low flying birds with a limited field of vision. This is the primary threat to the survival of the species especially in the Great Indian Bustard Habitat.
The campaign petitioned the Ministry of Power and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for action to be taken to place these power transmission lines underground. The Wildlife Institute of India’s Endangered Species Recovery Program recommended this solution. The campaign also draws attention to the ecological importance of grasslands which are tragically designated as wastelands.
Unfortunately, this 'Great Indian' bird didn’t receive early support from our politicians, policy-makers, corporate sector, and the general public. This is our last chance to prevent its extinction - by providing it with ample habitat, safe flying space and non-toxic food to make sure their population bounces back,” said Kedar Gore, Director of The Corbett Foundation.
It will be a great sense of shame and disappointment for India if it is unable to prevent the extinction of this species, in spite of it’s advancement in science and technology as well as the financial resources that it has at it’s disposal.
Since the campaign has been launched, more than 6,500 people have signed the online petition addressed to the Power Minister RK Singh. Celebrities like Dia Mirza and former cricketer Anil Kumble have also supported the campaign and shared it on their social media pages.
“It will be an international shame and disappointment if India is unable to prevent the extinction of the Great Indian Bustard, despite all the scientific know-how and financial resources available. Unfortunately, this 'Great Indian' bird didn’t receive early support from our politicians, policy-makers, corporate sector and general public. This is our last chance to prevent its extinction - by providing it with ample habitat, safe flying space and non-toxic food to make sure their population bounces back,” said Kedar Gore, Director of The Corbett Foundation.
The campaign organisers have also requested a meeting with the Minister to present their case and receive a commitment to action from him.
These are some of the problems and solutions that Conservation India has compiled together.
Significant threats to the GIB
- Reduction in the extent of undisturbed arid grassland habitat
- Degradation and disturbance in existing grassland habitat
- Lack of importance for natural grassland conservation in policy, law and PA network due to incorrect perception on ecological value vis-a-vis forests
- Lack of protection for many ‘lekking’ and nesting sites
- Lack of cooperation between different departments/stakeholders in GIB habitats
- Lack of awareness and support from local communities
- Livestock overgrazing and feral dogs
- Disturbance by photographers — there is now enough anecdotal evidence to show that photography of the species causes significant disturbance
What needs to be done immediately to recover the GIB
- State Governments must secure and fully protect all ‘lekking’ sites. This may be the single most important step in saving the species. A lekking site is a traditional place where males gather to display and attract females. If these sites are subjected to disturbance or degradation, GIBs may not be able to breed. Even if large areas of potential GIB habitat are protected, but specific lekking sites are not, GIB numbers will continue to be slide. Since there are multiple threats to these sites, such as industrial development, agriculture, irrigation and highways, this step needs political will and cooperation by multiple government departments and local communities.
- State Governments must constitute a GIB task force in every GIB state, with a handpicked membership that includes dynamic and committed government officials from different departments, biologists, conservationists, and local community leaders.
- MoEF must launch a full-scale ‘Project Bustard’ based on a sound scientific plan, and developed in consultation with national and international experts, as well as key people from each GIB state.
- Examine the feasibility of captive breeding by constituting a core group of experts that includes international experts with experience in breeding bustards or similar endangered birds in captivity (the recovery of the California condor, a large-sized, slow breeding bird that was on the verge of extinction, was a result of captive breeding. From 22 birds left in the wild, their numbers have increased to 405, with 226 living in the wild).
- Send out annual advisories from MoEF to Chief Wildlife Wardens of GIB States to prohibit entry and photography during the breeding season (Apr 1- Oct 31) at all known bustard habitats. CI believes that even disturbance outside the breeding season can have serious implications for the species and requests that wildlife photographers voluntarily desist from GIB photography.
What you can do as a first step
Since Rajasthan has the most viable population of this species, as well as abundant habitat, it is recommended that a letter must be sent to the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, urging him to set up a ‘Bustard Task Force’ to look into short-term and long-term measures for the Great Indian Bustard conservation. Proper measures in Rajasthan can make a huge difference to the survival of the species. Other steps must also be taken for the smaller areas where these birds live.