Great Indian Bustard on verge of extinction

THE TIMES OF INDIA

JAIPUR: It may soon be the end of the Great India Bustard (GIB), the state bird of Rajasthan. Repeated apathy of the government and a lack of will has pushed this bird to the brink of extinction in the desert state. Even the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List 2011of threatened birds has classified GIB as ‘Critically Endangered,’ the highest level of threat. Currently, there are just 250 GIBs in the country.

The winter count of the bird in the state was registered at 89, a mere shadow of the pride that the state held once for having more than half of the its entire population in the country. The bird, found only in India, has its presence also in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Karnataka.

According to Rajpal Singh, the state coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature, which conducts the survey along with the state forest department, the bird is now mainly confined to the desert with just one or two found in Ajmer, an area that once had the bird in abundance. Even the grasslands of Bhilwara and Kota have only a few of these birds.

Singh blames the lack of will by the government in protecting the bird and in saving its habitat as the reason for the gradual disappearance of the bird. “The Sonkaliya area in Ajmer used to be known for the GIB habitat but over the years, the grasslands have disappeared due to illegal mining and rampant agriculture thus affecting the habitat of the bird.”

The Sonkaliya comprises a cluster of 43 villages and due to the large presence of the GIB here, it was declared as a closed area with hunting strictly banned in the zone under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. At that time, hunting was not banned. A ban on hunting came only in 1992.

Later the Act was amended in 2002 and provisions were made in it so that areas such as Sonkaliya that had large presence of a species could either be declared as a conservation reserve, if it happened to be on a government revenue land, or a community reserve if were on a community land.

“But the state did not initiate any move to declare the area as a reserve. Illegal mining began and as a result the entire habitat of the bird disappeared. In the deserts in western Rajasthan, including areas such as Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and the Rajasthan canal along with rampant animal husbandry adversely affected the bird,” Singh added.

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