Great Indian Bustard

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    Recently, it has been highlighted that green energy projects in Rajasthan are emerging as a threat for the Great Indian Bustard (GIB).

    About Great Indian Bustard

    (Image Courtesy: Britannica)

    • Scientific Name: Ardeotis nigriceps
    • Features
      • It is a large bird with brown-and-white feathers with black crown and wing markings. It is one of the heaviest birds in the world.
      • Males have whitish necks and underparts with narrow black breast-bands. 
      • Females are smaller, with a greyer neck and typically no or incomplete breast-band.
      • It is the state bird of Rajasthan.
    • Habitat and Distribution
      • The species occurs in the Indian Subcontinent, with former strongholds in the Thar desert in the north-west and the Deccan tableland of the Peninsula.
      • It has been extirpated from 90 per cent of its former range and is now principally confined to Rajasthan.
      • Rajasthan is now home to the single largest viable population of the species.
      • This species inhabits arid and semi-arid grasslands with scattered short scrub, bushes and low intensity cultivation in flat or gently undulating terrain. 
    • Threats
      • It has an extremely small population that has undergone an extremely rapid decline.
      • Widespread hunting for sport and food precipitated its decline, accelerated by vehicular access to remote areas.
      • High intensity poaching still continues in Pakistan and egg-collecting was rampant in many states during the early 19th century.
      • However, the current threats are mostly from habitat loss and degradation, caused by
        • Widespread agricultural expansion and mechanization of farming.
        • Infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electricity pylons, wind turbines and constructions.
        • Mining and industrialization.
        • Well intended but ill-informed habitat management.
        • Lack of community support.
      • Power companies’ high tension wires are major threat factors, leading to death of about 15 per cent of GIB population due to collisions with power lines, according to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
    • Protection Status
      • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • India Wildlife Protection Act: Schedule I
    • Conservation Efforts
      • Project Great Indian Bustard
        • It was launched in Rajasthan including constructing breeding enclosures for the species and developing infrastructure to reduce human pressure on habitats.
      • State Action Plan for Resident Bustards’ Recovery Programme
        • The Indian government has provided financial support to conservation actions for this species in some regions and in association with several NGOs and experts has developed guidelines for the recovery programme.
      • Mitigating Powerline Mortality
        • In April 2021, the Supreme Court mandated that all power lines in both the ‘potential’ and the ‘priority’ habitats of the bird be laid underground
        • It would ensure the long-term conservation of the species and the successful reintroduction of captive-bred birds in the future.
      • Bird diverters, colourful discs meant to alert birds in flight from a distance to avoid collision, have been installed.
        • However, there is debate in the scientific community about their efficacy for bustards.
      • Other Conservation Actions
        • The local people and their active participation are central to conserving the species.
        • It now requires an urgent acceleration in targeted conservation actions in order to prevent it from becoming functionally extinct within a few decades.
        • Consolidate core breeding areas identified across the species’s range by creating strict refuges during prime breeding months (March–September).
        • Formulate landscape conservation strategies in priority areas.
        • Community outreach and linking local livelihoods with bustard conservation in priority areas by subsidy/incentive driven agro-environmental schemes that promote bustard-friendly practices.
        • Provide more support and equipment to park staff, to better protect areas.
        • Commencing an ex situ conservation breeding programme as an insurance against extinction.
        • Regulate and control eco-tourism to minimise disturbance to the species.
        • Assess the efficacy of these conservation actions by systematic, country-wide population monitoring on alternate years for the next 10 years.

    Source: TH