Great Indian Bustard (GIB), one of the rarest birds on Earth, has found new home in the State of Rajasthan. The Critically Endangered birds were seen in a new habitat in the grasslands of Salkha area, 45 km from Jaisalmer district. Also boosting the conservation efforts, the state of Madhya Pradesh too is planning to revive the population of GIB by bringing a few pairs from Rajasthan.
The Great Indian Bustard is one of the most regal birds in the world and the heaviest flying bird. In the last few decades though, with rapid industrialisation and the conversion of grasslands to farmlands or urban areas, the bustard has lost its home to humans. Only 300 remain today, with 100 GIB noted to be found in Rajasthan.
The good news is a flock of 24 GIBs were spotted in Salkha village area, which is outside the periphery of the protected Desert National Park of Rajasthan. The group consisted of 21 males and 3 females.
Chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Dr Govind Sagar Bhardwaj confirmed the news and says it is a boost to their confidence that they would be able to save the birds from extinction.
“The grassland is part of sacred groves or ‘oraans’ spread over 40 sq km. Little human disturbance, low grazing pressure and minimum encroachment for human settlement provide an ideal location for the GIBs. In just two hours, I could spot 24 birds,” Bhardwaj said.
The Rajasthan state government recently became the first state in India to allot 4.5 crores for conservation of the GIBs.
A part of this funding can now hopefully help in the protection of the new habitat of the birds.
“It is located 30km north of the Sudashri enclosure. There is a need to create awareness among locals to conserve the habitat,” Bharadwaj added.
As per Ranjit Singh Chairman of Wildlife Trust of India, the new habitat has to be conserved immediately and measures are being taken in this regard. He added that this being the mating season of the birds, it becomes all the more crucial that the shy birds as well as their eggs and hatchlings are protected from prying humans, feral dogs etc.
Reviving Lost Habitats
The Great Indian Bustards were once found all across the Indian plains, but at present the birds are living in fragmented pockets of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
According to Madhya Pradesh forest department though, the GIBs have not been seen in the state for a while and to revive their population, they are now planning to shift a few pairs from the Desert National Park.
The new sites, under consideration where the birds may be bred are Ghatigaon (Gwalior) and Karera (Shivpuri) sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh that once had sizeable populations of the bird.
“We are trying to shift the birds from Jaisalmer and breed it here in a large enclosure. But it would be too early to comment,” said Narendra Kumar, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) wildlife.
In the last nine years, no GIB has been spotted in Ghatigaon, where there were many at one time owing to poaching as well as rampant mining in the area.
Before the birds are even shifted to MP, the major task at hand therefore would be make the environment in the region safe enough for them to live and breed. As grassland inhabitants, it would be imperative that the grassland habitats are secured first.
At least, the presence of birds outside protected areas in Rajasthan and the initiative of the MP government to bring back the birds to the state are encouraging news for conservationists to keep up the effort of saving these majestic birds.
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Image courtesy Dr. Meet Agrawal. All rights reserved, used with permission.