The Plight and Conservation of the Great Indian Bustard

Image depicting threats to the Great Indian Bustard and conservation efforts, including habitat loss, power line collisions, illegal hunting, pesticide contamination, and community engagement.
The Plight and Conservation of the Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard (GIB), scientifically known as Ardeotis nigriceps, stands on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 150 individuals remaining in the wild across the Indian subcontinent. Primarily found in the grasslands and scrublands of the Thar Desert and the Deccan Plateau, this majestic bird faces a multitude of threats that imperil its existence.

Habitat Degradation: The GIB's habitat has significantly dwindled due to human activities such as agriculture, industrialization, and infrastructure development. This habitat loss and fragmentation confine the bird to small pockets in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

Power Lines: A pervasive threat to the GIB comes from the crisscrossing high-tension power lines within its habitat. The birds, with their large size and limited frontal vision, frequently collide with these lines, leading to fatal consequences.

Illegal Hunting: Despite stringent laws prohibiting hunting, sporadic incidents of poaching continue to plague the GIB population, exacerbating its decline.

Pesticide Contamination: The extensive use of pesticides in agricultural areas near GIB habitats poses a grave risk to their health and reproduction by accumulating toxic substances in their bodies.

Predation by Free-Ranging Dogs: The burgeoning population of free-ranging dogs poses a significant threat, especially during the breeding season when they may prey on GIB eggs and chicks.

In response to these challenges, concerted conservation efforts have been initiated:

Habitat Protection: Identifying and safeguarding critical GIB habitats, such as the Thar Desert and the Deccan Plateau grasslands, is paramount for their survival.

Power Line Mitigation: Collaborative efforts between the government and conservation organizations aim to reduce bird collisions by installing bird diverters on power lines and exploring underground cabling options.

Captive Breeding Programs: Conservationists have established captive breeding programs to bolster the GIB population, with the first successful hatching of a chick reported in March 2023.

Community Engagement: Involving local communities in conservation endeavors and raising awareness about the importance of protecting the GIB and its habitat are crucial for long-term survival.

In recent news, the Supreme Court is revisiting its 2021 order to bury power lines underground in GIB habitats due to concerns over implementation challenges and costs. A committee has been tasked with suggesting measures to protect the GIB while balancing conservation needs with India's renewable energy objectives, underscoring the complex interplay between environmental preservation and developmental imperatives.

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