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dna exclusive: Let Great Indian Bustard take wing

Saturday, 21 December 2013 - 9:06am IST | Agency: dna

With the birds' numbers dwindling, state takes steps to improve breeding sites.

The state government has woken up to the dwindling population of the Great Indian Bustard.
It will soon take measures to protect the critically endangered species as part of the recovery plan for all states which have the bird.

Radio-tagging and artificial incubation are some of the measures to ensure a protected environment for the bird.

The Great Indian Bustard is only found in India and Pakistan. From a population of 1260 in 1969, the 200 the Great Indian Bustard left are found in fragments over Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where they are already feared to be extinct. Rajasthan has the highest number – 100 – of the Great Indian Bustard while the other states have around 15-30 birds.

Principal secretary (forest department) Pravin Pardeshi said: “We have recently notified a bustard sanctuary in Solapur and allocated a decent budget for its development. Additional forest guards will be hired to supervise undisturbed breeding of the bird.”

The primary threat faced by the Great Indian Bustard is not poachers but habitat degradation and lack of breeding sites. Bustards thrive in isolated and arid grasslands and are reclusive breeders, usually laying one egg a year between April and September.

“We are considering the feasibility of radio-tagging to study the migratory pattern of the birds and artificial incubation of eggs to increase the number of the Great Indian Bustard,” Pardeshi said.

Due to fragmentation of the country’s grassland ecosystem and disturbance from tourists, locals and photographers, the birds in various states have reportedly not bred for more than four years.

“There used to be a lot of conflict in the Solapur sanctuary where locals felt suffocated due to the protected status of the area coming in the way of agricultural development. Now that the problem has been solved and the new sanctuary area reduced, the locals should be roped into conservation efforts,” said Dr Pramod Patil, Great Indian Bustard conservationist, BNHS.

The Solapur sanctuary was notified in 1979 over an area of about 8496 sqkm. Recently, the area was reduced to 1,222 sqkm to provide a planned and comprehensive protection to the endangered bird.

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