Discuss the conservation efforts being taken for the conservation of the rare Great Indian Bustard.
- The Great Indian Bustard (GIB), is one of the heaviest flying birds, and is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent has long been on the brink of extinction. Barely 150 of these birds are estimated to be surviving now globally. However, a major conservation effort launched about four years ago is bringing a ray of hope.
- Since June last year, nine GIB eggs collected from the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer where a conservation centre has been set up, have hatched, and the chicks are reported to be doing well. This is the largest number of hatchings reported within a six-month frame by any GIB conservation programme in the world.
- Forest officials have identified seven females and one male among the GIB chicks; the sex of the ninth and youngest chick, which hatched a couple of months ago, is not yet known.
- Giving the chicks the right diet is a being done. Very little is known about their food habitat. With inputs provided by experts and scientists bird feed has been identified that is rich in proteins and calcium.
- The GIB is known to eat insects, harvested foodgrains, and fruit. The uncontrolled use of pesticides and insecticides in farms has badly hit their food habitat. Vanishing grasslands, and attacks by dogs and foxes have contributed to the threat to the GIB’s survival.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, are working to save the GIB. The Ministry has allotted special funds to the tune of Rs 33 crore, a part of which was used to set up the incubation and chick-rearing centre in Jaisalmer.
- Officials have zeroed in on 14 spots, based rainfall, accessibility, proximity to wild source, habitat and topographic suitability, availability of water, temperature, etc. and identified Sorsan as the site most conducive for their rearing.
- Sorsan would allow the birds to breed more frequently, unlike Jaisalmer, which sees frequent droughts. Also, with access via road and suitable flat grassland habitat is available.
What are the challenges being faced in conservation of GIB?
- Male birds reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 5; females at age 3-4.
- Generally, the GIB lives up to age 15 or 16. A female lays an egg once in 1-2 years, and the chicks’ survival rate is 60%-70%. Being such long-lived and slow reproducing species, adult mortality remains high.
- Once these birds mature and can produce offspring, there must be enough habitats to support their growth. Readying the necessary habitat will be key in the coming months and years.
- Globally and in India, high voltage power lines are a major threat to the GIB. The bird has poor frontal vision, which restricts it from spotting power lines early.