Great Indian Bustard 

#GS3 #Environment 

News : Wildlife activists have expressed their concern over the Forest department’s construction activities in Hachcholli-Raravi area in Siruguppa taluk Karnataka, a breeding centre of the Great Indian Bustard.  

The unscientific works in the region, they said, was posing a grave threat to the critically endangered GIB, India’s heaviest flying bird. 

Scientific Name: Ardeotis nigriceps 

Habitat: Dry grasslands and scrublands on the Indian subcontinent; its largest populations are found in the Indian state of Rajasthan. 

Protection Status 

  • Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 
  • In Appendix I of CITES, 
  • In Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

Great Indian Bustard 

  • The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height. 
  • It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology. 
  • For long, conservationists have been demanding to secure this population, warning that the bird might get extinct in the coming decades. 
  • It would become the first mega species to disappear from India after Cheetah in recent times. 
  • Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states. 
  • However, with rampant hunting and declining grasslands, their population dwindled. 
  • In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Various threats to GIBs 

General threats to GIB 

  • Habitat loss & fragmentation, change of land use pattern, desertification, ill-thought plantation of exotic & invasive species in grassland ecosystems are some of the generic causes. 
  • Neglect of state institutions due to classification of ‘grasslands’ as ‘wastelands’, conversion of grasslands to agriculture lands due to increasing irrigation potential and decline of nature/GIB-friendly agrarian practices, are all commonly and correctly blamed for the steady decline in India’s GIB population. 

Role of Noise Pollution 

  • Noise pollution affects the mating and courtship practices of the GIB. 
  • The male GIB inflates his ‘gular’ pouch (near the neck) which almost touches the ground, in order to produce a large booming sound which reverberates across the grassland. 
  • The male GIB does this to attract GIB females and to inform them of his exact location in the vast expanse of the grassland. 
  • Thus, the sound of the male GIB should be loud enough to transcend the walls of the sanctuary and be audible to female GIBs in the fields nearby. 
  • The noise generated by human activities, whether be it by vehicles, tractors, music during processions, firecrackers, may interfere with the GIB’s mating call and drown it out. 

Other threats 

  • The rate of reproduction amongst GIBs is very low; the female GIB lays only one egg per year. 
  • This solitary egg is under threat from natural predators of the grasslands such as jackals, hyenas or foxes or invasive species such as crows or feral dogs. 
  • In such a scenario, every opportunity the GIBs lose to mate pushes the species closer to extinction. 
  • Protection Measures 
  • Birdlife International uplisted this species from Endangered to Critically Endangered (2011) 
  • Protection under CITES Appendix I 
  • Protection under Schedule I Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002 
  • Project Great Indian Bustard (Rajasthan):  aims at identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas. 
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