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Centre to seek Indian Army's help to conserve Great Indian Bustard


New Delhi, Sep 05: Once a flourishing and exotic species of birds, the Great Indian Bustard is now on the verge of extinction. In it's continued effort to conserve the population of the critically endangered species in the Pokhran Firing Range, the Centre will be seeking the help of the Indian Army .

The decision was taken in the second meeting of the steering committee formed under the Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican Conservation Breeding and Research Programme held in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan recently.

Image credit: Twitter

The Centre will seek the help of the Indian Army to conserve the population of critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) found in the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan.

According to the minutes of the meeting, some population of the GIB is found in Pokhran Field Firing Range, Jaisalmer.

It was informed that the population in the firing range is undisturbed and efforts should be made to get support from the Army in conservation efforts for protection of the bird.

"The ministry would seek support of the Indian Army in the conservation and breeding programme of GIB at the ministerial level," the document said.

Is the Great Indian Bustard about to go extinct?

With 200 individuals left, almost exclusively in India, the species is listed as Critically Endangered and Schedule I (Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972). Their populations have steadily declined and are facing imminent extinction risk unless effective management interventions are urgently implemented.

Excessive hunting in past and current levels of habitat loss, compounded with very slow life-history traits, has caused their decline. The largest population of about 150 birds occurs in Thar Desert, Rajasthan. Other populations are less than 15 birds each, occurring in Kachchh (Gujarat), Solapur and Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh) and Bellary (Karnataka).

Why is GIB on extinction?

WII's research has shown that power lines, particularly high voltage (33-440 KV) transmission lines with vertical alignment are the biggest threat to the birds as of now and their habitats have a high density of transmission lines because of the impetus on renewable energy production in GIB habitats of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

It has been noted by the government officials and scientists that the birds were nearing extinction due to collision with high voltage power lines that criss-cross their flying path.

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Threats to GIBs

  • Hunting
  • Lack of grassland protection policy and laws due to an incorrect perception of ecology.
  • Lack of protection on the nesting sites of Great India Bustard
  • Lack of awareness and support from the local community.
  • Lack of cooperation between numerous concerned departments in GIB habitat.
  • Livestock overgrazing a threat of feral dogs

The story so far

In 2013, the Rajasthan government launched Project Great Indian Bustard, with the aim of constructing breeding enclosures for the species and developing infrastructure to reduce human pressure on its habitats.

In the last four years, the government has released over Rs 7.9 crore to Maharashtra and Rajasthan for conservation of great Indian bustard under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme-Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH).

According to government figures, Maharshtra got Rs 4.79 crore between 2015 and 2019, while Rajasthan received Rs 3.12 crore.

What can be done?

  • State government and other stakeholders must ensure a proper protection on the lekking sites.
  • State government must form and deploy a special GIB task force in every state that has GIB population. The team should be handpicked and must be aware and dedicated to the cause.
  • Govt must examine the feasibility of captive breeding by forming a team of experts from all across the globe.
  • An alternative to the overhead electric cables must be found as early as possible.

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