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Is the Great Indian Bustard about to go extinct?

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Ahmedabad, June 09: The population of the great Indian bustard, that narrowly missed being christened India's national bird has reduced to less than 150, making the bird twice as endangered as the tiger.

Is the Great Indian Bustard about to go extinct?

The grassland bird that was once found across the Indian subcontinent, is now on the brink of extinction. The GIB, at present, is native to just two Indian states, Rajasthan and Gujarat-in Gujarat, the last surviving sub-adult male flew away this year, which means a complete collapse of the bird's feeble presence in the state is imminent.

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The bird's population was approximately 1,260 in 1969. It was present in 11 states, including Haryana, Punjab, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Lack of political will on the part of the states' administration, and development projects like windmills and power lines have caused the avian species to teeter on the edge of extinction.

Wildlife conversationalists say that the Centre's push to conserve the bird came only after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorised the bird as "critically endangered" in July 2013.

The species is critically endangered because it has a very small population that has undergone an extremely rapid decline owing to a multitude of threats including habitat loss and degradation, hunting and direct disturbance, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of birds.

High-tension wires in the desert region have also been cited as another threat to the GIB. Over the past few years, Rajasthan and other states have installed high-voltage power lines in the path of the bustard's aerial corridors. Due to their heavy weight and limited vision, the birds have trouble avoiding the lines, get electrocuted and die.

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A project for its conservation was sanctioned eight years ago and a sum of Rs 22 crore was sanctioned two years ago, but nothing much has been done till date, say experts.

With one of the fastest mass extinctions in the history of the planet underway, the bustard faces a slim chances of survival. If this continuous, Bustards, might be the first species to become extinct in independent India.

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