It was the perfect Christmas gift for the first Great Indian Bustard (GIB) as he was fitted with a Platform Terminal Transmitter on December 25 in Warora, Chandrapur by a team of biologists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in collaboration with the Maharashtra forest department.
Dr Bilal Habib of the WII led the operation, where the bird was captured, fitted and released on the same day. “The bird was captured at 5:30pm and released by 5:45pm. This is the first time a GIB has been fitted with a transmitter. The device was fitted onto the bird’s back and is solar powered, so the device will run for at least two years,” said Habib.
The GIB is an elusive species, with a population of 200 left all over the world. Of these, 25 are found in three pockets of Maharashtra, one of which is Warora where there are only seven birds left.
The issues faced by this species are habitat degradation and lack of breeding sites. The GIB, which thrive in isolated and arid grasslands, are reclusive breeders which lay just one egg per year between April and September. Fragmentation of the Country’s grassland ecosystem and human disturbance have been the cause of a decline, as the birds have reportedly not bred for over four years.
“The birds are migratory in nature and disappear for months on end. This will help us to understand their migratory pattern and also help us to map corridors used by them between the pockets in Maharashtra and maybe find new areas where they might secretly exist,” said Habib.
The ministry of environment and forests, directed the GIB inhabited states to prepare state recovery plans for conservation of the species when it was listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Principal secretary of the forest department (Maharashtra), Pravin Pardeshi, who has been a part of the decision making aspect for conservation of GIB said, “This is an important step in the conservation process. We will now be able to determine which are the important habitat and breeding areas to protect by tracking their movement.”
Total population: 250 birds
Maharashtra: 20-25 birds
ICUN red list Category: Critically endangered
Location: India and Pakistan
Primary threats: Habitat degradation, over grazing, fragmentation of grasslands, direct disturbance from people