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Great Indian Bustard

  May 03, 2017

Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds. Once common on the dry plains of the Indian subcontinent, as few as 250 individuals were estimated in 2011 to survive and the species is critically endangered by hunting and loss of its habitat, which consists of large expanses of dry grassland and scrub. These birds are often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck. It is protected under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 of India. In India, the bird was historically found in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Today the bustard is restricted to isolated pockets in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (shared with Pakistan).

Great Indian bustards make local movements but these are not well understood although it is known that populations disperse after the monsoons.

The habitat where it is most often found is arid and semi-arid grasslands, open country with thorn scrub, tall grass interspersed with cultivation. It avoids irrigated areas. The major areas where they are known to breed are in central and western India and eastern Pakistan. The dry semi-desert regions where it was found in parts of Rajasthan has been altered by irrigation canals that have transformed the region into an intensively farmed area.

The Rajasthan government will set up a captive breeding centre for the great Indian bustard in an attempt to boost the wild population of the country's most critically endangered bird. The task of conservation will be taken up through two facilities in Kota and Jaisalmer districts. This will be the first such facility in the country aimed at saving the bird, which is the State bird of Rajasthan. Its last remnant wild population of about 90 in Rajasthan accounts for 95% of the total world population. The captive breeding centre will come up at Sorsan in Kota district, while a hatchery will be set up at Mokhala in Jaisalmer district in the next one year. Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is its scientific arm. For the breeding centre, the comparatively moist habitat of Sorsan has been selected. The region has better rainfall, besides forest land, and it was home to the bustards until two decades ago. After the chicks are raised, they would be transported to the desert for reintroduction in the wild.