What locust attack? Great Indian Bustards make a meal of pests, reproduce more 

#GS3 #Ecology #Environment 

The locust invasion, while proving to be a disaster for farmers across Rajasthan, has become a literal movable feast for the local biodiversity, including the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) in the state. 

  • Locusts, that are very rich in protein, are being eaten by the local fauna, helping them increase their reproduction rate. 
  • The pests are considered such an important source of nutrition that even captive GIBs under Wildlife Institute of India’s (WII), Habitat Improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard - An Integrated Approach project are being fed locusts. 
  • “Locust is a very important food for GIB. Due to the high nutritional status of locusts, the fecundity of the bird has become high,” YV Jhala, dean of WII and head of the GIB conservation project, said. 
  •  “Usually, there are four-five eggs laid every year, but last year we found 15 eggs,” he added. 
  • The locusts are fed to the GIB both for their nutritional and recreational value as the birds like to chase the insects around. 
  • Jhala added that last year, his team also found evidence of re-nesting after the egg was removed. “Re-nesting is directly linked to improved nutritional intake,” he said. 
  • GIB isn’t the only species that is benefiting from the locust invasion. Locusts are also eaten by moneys, lizards, foxes, desert cats, jackals and wolves. 
  • “Whenever there is a pest invasion like the current locust invasion, it is associated with an increase in the population of species. This has also been seen with cricket upsurges and increases in fox populations earlier,” Jhala said. 
  • The increased reproduction rates last for one-two years as the animals make the most of this additional nutrition that becomes suddenly available and reproduce more. 
  • Protein is an important growth nutrient which the animals feed their young. 
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