- 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
I. 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.
II. 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.
III. 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.
- 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.