PUNE: The Great Indian Bustard has recently been declared as critically endangered (CR) by the BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation organisations, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Environmentalists and experts say that this upgradation of category of the Great Indian Bustard will give priority to its conservation and protection. At present, the bustard population in six states, including Maharashtra, is just 300.
The IUCN is an international organisation dedicated to natural resource conservation. The IUCN Red List of threatened species is world-wide considered the most comprehensive and authentic inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. Also, BirdLife’s global species programme continually collates up-to-date information on globally threatened birds from the published literature and from a world-wide network of experts. This is used to evaluate the status of each species using the IUCN Red List categories and criteria. This new category for the bustard will be incorporated into the 2011 Red List, which will be released by BirdLife International in May and by the IUCN in September.
Till the end of 2010, the Great Indian Bustard or ‘Ardeotis nigriceps’ was listed as endangered for its severely fragmented small population. It was thought to have a population of 250 to 999 birds, which is suspected to be declining at an estimated rate of 20% to 29% since the last 10 years, primarily because of hunting pressure in some areas and the conversion of grassland habitats to cultivation and pasture, increased pesticide usage and disturbance.
The bustard’s population has declined from an estimated 1,260 in 1969 to 300 at present. This had prompted experts from the Bombay Natural History Society, Wildlife Institute of India and others to propose that the Great Indian Bustard should be upgraded to critically endangered category.
Pramod Patil, who works for the conservation and protection of the Great Indian Bustards in Maharashtra, said the adult population has drastically declined in the bustard sanctuary at Nannaj in Solapur district. The census count by the forest department wildlife division in 2009 was 21, which went down to just nine in 2010.
Regarding threats, Patil said, that hunting could still be prevalent in the sanctuary area in Maharashtra, as local people openly admit that they kill bustards. Also, there is no record of breeding in the last three years at breeding spots in the sanctuary. “Increased density of high tension electric wires in the sanctuary has increased chances of bustard collisions and subsequent deaths of the adults. Thus, in this current situation, the upgradation of the Great Indian Bustard to critically endangered will give priority to its conservation,” he added.