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Just 150 left in the wild, fight to save Great Indian Bustard is down to the wire

AHMEDABAD: Researchers this month sounded alarm over koalas in Australia changing into "functionally extinct". Closer home, a seriously endangered fowl that lost out to the peacock to transform India’s nationwide fowl could also be subsequent in line. There are actually lower than 150 Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) within the wild -- a speedy decline from 2011 when their inhabitants was estimated at round 250.

Even as numbers of the long-lasting fowl continue to slip, loss of cooperation between states and lackadaisical perspective of officers has hit conservation efforts onerous. Experts say that the Centre’s push to save the species came simplest after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified GIB as “seriously endangered” in July 2013. For the heaviest flying fowl within the country, it was already too late.

From 250 in 2011, there are actually lower than 150 GIBs within the wild

Experts have additionally stated little has been achieved to protect grasslands, the natural habitat of GIB, or cope with the threats that energy transmission lines and windmills pose to them -- unusually a big killer of the birds.

A significant factor contributing to dwindling numbers is collision with energy transmission lines and windmills. Bustards typically favour flat open landscapes with minimal visible obstruction and therefore adapt neatly in grasslands. Numerous GIBs have died prior to now few years after crashing in opposition to windmills or getting electrocuted by low hanging energy transmission lines. According to estimates by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), 4 birds had died in Thar in 2018 alone after colliding with energy lines and wind turbines.

Taking notice of the threats to the fowl, in February this year the ministry of latest and renewable energy requested energy transmission line businesses and wind energy farm developers to identify areas passing via GIB habitats and take in possibility mitigation measures with respective state governments to steer clear of fowl hits. Action instructed included portray tips of wind turbines to make them extra visible to the birds in the dead of night.

H S Singh, member of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife, stated there has been a lot of talk about figuring out important areas for retrofitting of transmission lines, but little has been achieved.

Forest division officers in Rajasthan and Gujarat, however, stated they have got identified areas where energy lines have to move underground. Experts take care of that this needs to be achieved on priority foundation.

Collisions with energy lines have ended in deaths

Devesh Gadhvi, deputy director of The Corbett Foundation that works for GIB conservation, added, “State governments should take energy lines underground. Since 2014, when the primary case of GIB collision in Kutch was recorded, there has been talk about that, but so far not anything has been achieved. If the fowl is going extinct, it is going to simplest be because of loss of a political will.”

A Gujarat energy reliable on condition of anonymity informed NewsTread that prime prices concerned within the undertaking have additionally been a deterrent. Laying a kilometre of energy line underground will price approximately Rs 1 crore, he stated.

In Rajasthan, where GIB enjoys the standing of state fowl, a plan for ex-situ conservation (captive breeding) has taken several years to materialise.

“Land has been allotted at Ramdevra near Jaisalmer. Houbara Bustard Breeding Centre at Saih Al Salam in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which has effectively reared as many as 30,000 chicks of houbara bustards has been roped in,” stated Sutirtha Dutta, faculty at WII and co-supervisor of the Bustard Conservation Project. Dutta stated an MoU has been signed by the WII, Rajasthan executive and Dubai for this purpose.

Dog attacks have contributed to GIB deaths

After Gujarat's last remaining male bustard flew away, the state is also mulling a captive breeding centre, in keeping with A Okay Saxena, principal leader conservator of forests (wildlife). Notably, a breeding centre in Gujarat have been authorized by the central executive in 2015.

“Gujarat did not have sufficient bustard eggs to start the centre. There was a suggestion to source them from Rajasthan however the undertaking was shelved,” stated former principal leader conservator of forests C N Pandey.

The GIB was as soon as distributed right through Western India, spanning 11 states, as well as parts of Pakistan. Its stronghold was the Thar wasteland within the north-west and the Deccan Plateau of the peninsula. Today, its inhabitants is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. Rajasthan has the biggest inhabitants of GIBs at 120 while Gujarat has six left after its last sub-adult male flew away previous this year. The grassland habitat in those two states where the fowl flourishes has lengthy been viewed as barren region and exploited for agriculture, trade and irrigation projects. Unlike its neighbour China, which has rolled out grassland conservation and management policies that prohibit the use of grasslands in some parts, India lacks such a law.

Maps: Wildlife Institute of India
Pictures: Devesh Okay Gadhavi, deputy director, The Corbett Foundation (Kutch department)

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