3 Gujarat bird species in ‘endangered’ list

The great Indian bustard found mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan in India is on the verge of extinction.

The great Indian bustard found mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan in India is on the verge of extinction.

AHMEDABAD: The latest ‘red list’ of endangered bird species released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) includes 15 Indian bird species, three of which are found mainly in Gujarat. These include the Great Indian Bustard, the Indian Vulture and Siberian cranes. All three are in the ‘critically endangered’ (CR) category.

Several migratory birds that come to Thol and Nalsarovar have also been listed in the ‘vulnerable’ and ‘nearly threatened’ bird species. Officials said the IUCN red list is the list on the basis of which several countries and states form their strategies for conservation of birds. Continue reading

Panel set up to conserve the endangered bustard

2(26)NASHIK: The Nashik forest department range has set up a Bustard Conservation Committee and has forwarded a proposal of the plan to the state government, based on the Centre’s guidelines for preparation of a state action plan for the Great Indian Bustards’ (GIB) recovery programme.

The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is a large bird that was once abundant on dry plains, over large expanses of grassland and scrub. Weighing upto 15kg, the Bustard is among the heaviest of the flying birds in India. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognised the bird as being critically endangered, with a 2011 estimate putting the total number of mature individuals at 250.

As per the Centre’s directions, each forest range in the states where the bustard is spotted will have a committee chaired by the chief conservator of forests (CCF). The committee is to comprise of representatives of a scientific institution working on bustard ecology and conservation or in a related field/an ecologist or conservation biologist in the vicinity of the project area, a representative from a local NGO well-versed with the socio-ecological issues in the vicinity of the project, representative(s) from the local Panchayat(s), member, officer in-charge of the project and member secretary. The chairman can also add additional members.

The Nashik range committee has members from the Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS), veterinarian and wildlife experts, members of the NGO Nature Conservation Society of Nashik (NCSN), a retired range forest officer, a bird-watcher from Ozar, where the birds have been spotted the most, joint forest management committees (JFMs) of three villages and the deputy conservator of forests, East division as the member secretary.

“Nanaj in Solapur and Nashik are being looked at as breeding centres for these birds in the state. Nanaj is already a bustard sanctuary in Maharashtra, with seven to eight birds,” informed CCF G Sai Prakash.

th_2993d502a5f3e080a8fc57aba2bd413e_1320145624GIBwolvessml“We have earmarked an area of over 500 ha opposite the Ozarkhed dam; a grassland area and the right habitat for the bird for breeding. We will encourage the grassland here by not planting trees and fencing the area. We are sending a proposal for the conservation centre to the central government,” said Sai Prakash.

The survey began last week in Ozar, Chandwad and Dindori. Meetings and awareness campaigns in the villages will be conducted soon.

Sai Prakash said that the most important thing for the project was to take local people into confidence. “We will be including three villages around the area – Krishnagaon, Autale and Talegaon. These villages also have joint forest management committees. Other grassland birds can also be conserved through this project,” Sai Prakash said.

“Grasslands have changed, space for the bustards is getting reduced and poultry is increasing, which gives rise to various diseases. The numbers of dogs that hunt these birds have increased. This was also a game bird that people used to hunt frequently. The female lays only one egg in a year. Rajasthan has a good population of these birds and we can bring the eggs from there to facilitate breeding,” Sai Prakash added.

“The bustard was uniquely surviving, and in good numbers, in a comparatively small area in Ozar. Eleven years ago, nine females and five males were spotted in 150 acres of land in Ozar. The bird had adequate protection, with a wall built around the whole area and these survived very well,” said committee member Bishwaroop Raha, from the NGO NCSN, “But the conditions deteriorated with rapid development. Seven years ago, a total of 11 birds were spotted, five years ago there were seven and three years ago only three. We have to see how many are there now. It is fairly easy to bring back their population, provided we give them a secure area. The bustard is a friend of the farmer, as it feeds on grasshoppers that are detrimental to the crops, millipedes and centipedes.”

Raha said that the project will also help increase populations of other grassland birds like the Lesser Florican and the Bengal Florican.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Gujarat ups measures to save bustards going the Dodo way

Forest dept mulls captive breeding programme as bird numbers in the country fall below 200.

Great Indian Bustard

Great Indian Bustard

Great Indian Bustard (GIB), which is facing an existential crisis, state’s forest department is mulling to start a captive breeding programme. Experts believe that less than 200 of the species survive in the country, with the highest concentration being in Rajasthan followed by Gujarat.

Sensitised by representations made by NGOs in the matter, chief wildlife warden CN Pandey, said: “We are mulling on the option of starting a captive breeding programme for the bustard on the lines of the vulture.”

It should be noted that captive breeding of the birds was one of the suggestions made by Conservation India, a non-profit working for wildlife conservation in the country. The other suggestions include launching a project bustard at the national level and a GIB task force at the national and state level.

According to the forest department’s last census in 2007, the state is home to 48 GIBs, all of which are concentrated in Naliya in Kutch. Currently GIBs remain protected in only 2 sq km of land in Lala-Parijan Sanctuary. However, with the birds continuing to roam outside the sanctuary area they continue to face threats from both humans and animals.

Earlier, Prerna Singh Bindra, a member of the National Board for Wildlife had also written to chief minister Narendra Modi urging to constitute an action plan for the state to save the bird.

An official of the forest department, who has closely studied the bird, said that in India captive breeding of the bird was attempted in Andhra Pradesh once. “As far as I know it has resulted in only one chick so far. But captive breeding can be a good way of arresting their dwindling numbers,” said the official. He said the captive breeding programme if implemented can be a boon.

He said that ornithologists Dharma Kumar Singhji had in once made a mention that the eggs of the birds can also be taken away to be hatched somewhere else and the chicks born could later be introduced into the wild. “He believed that if an egg is taken away it would prompt the bird to give another egg as they usually give one egg in a breeding season,” said the official.

source: dnaindia.com

Rajasthan launches last-ditch effort to save the Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard

NEW DELHI – Habitat destruction and illegal hunting have pushed one of India’s most iconic birds to the brink of extinction with fewer than 200 left in the country.

A last-ditch effort to save the Great Indian Bustard, once a candidate for the national bird of India, was launched last week in Rajasthan, with a budget of tens of millions of rupees.

Known for the distinctive black plume on its crown and its long legs, a Great Indian Bustard adult male stands approximately a metre tall, weighs 15 kilograms and has a wingspan of 2.5 metres – making it one of the largest birds capable of flight. The mostly terrestrial bird is found only in India and Pakistan, where the World Wildlife Fund says only a few remain.

In 1972, the renowned ornithologist Salim Ali championed the choice of the Great Indian Bustard as India’s national bird. However, officials picked the peacock because, as one story has it, the mispronunciation of the word “bustard” might cause embarrassment.

While they numbered about 1,500 in the mid-1980s, the population has rapidly declined. There were 600 in 2000, between 300 and 350 in 2010 and fewer than 200 today. The birds live in nine sanctuaries in six states and nearly half of the remaining population is in Rajasthan, where the Great Indian Bustard is the state bird.

On Wednesday, state officials announced a plan to spend 120 million rupees (Dh7.72m) to conserve its bustard population.
The expenditure appears modest, but it is a start, said Ramki Sreenivasan, co-founder of Conservation India, an advocacy group, told The National.

“Even seeing a budget to protect a specific bird – I would see that as dramatic,” Mr Sreenivasan said. “We should be super-thrilled that the Rajasthan government is doing this and should applaud it.”

Conservation India launched a campaign to persuade the Rajasthan government to protect its bustards. More than 1,000 people wrote letters to the Rajasthan chief minister, and these efforts were supplemented, Mr Sreenivasan said, by various conservation groups lobbying politicians.

The primary reason for the dwindling numbers of the bird has been the degradation of India’s arid and semi-arid flatlands, which include the birds’ natural habitats of grassland and desert.

A 2010 report by three conservation scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society and the Wildlife Institute of India, published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, pointed to a loss of habitat “in areas where human-induced changes … are most rapid due to intensive agriculture and industrialisation”.
“Traditionally, grassland and scrub have been considered as ‘wasteland'”, so no policy to conserve these habitats has been implemented, the scientists wrote.

Although the Rajasthan government’s conservation programme was a good start, bustards should be a concern for the national government, Mr Sreenivasan said.

“There is a need to better manage the grasslands, to treat them for their ecological value,” he said. “Once they are given over to agriculture or industry, we lose them irreversibly.”

On Thursday, a committee of the National Board of Wildlife met in New Delhi to discuss broader efforts such as grassland preservation and the possibility of breeding the Great Indian Bustard in captivity.

Breeding the bird could prove difficult, said Kedar Gore, the director of the Corbett Foundation, a Mumbai-based conservation non-profit.

“The Great Indian Bustard has very specific requirements as far as breeding grounds are concerned, and it is easily disturbed,” Mr Gore said. “In fact, this is why the Gujarat government has banned even photography during the bird’s breeding season, which starts in June.”

While captive breeding is “definitely an option”, he said, “I would always prefer that the habitat be secured first.”

“That is the fundamental necessity,” he said. “If we can’t secure the habitat, there’s no point having even 10,000 bustards in captivity, because there will be nowhere to release them.”
Another possible reason for the depletion of the Great Indian Bustard has been a spate of hunting tourism in Pakistan. In India, it is illegal to hunt the birds.

Many of Rajasthan’s bustards reside in the Desert National Park, near the border with Pakistan, and the birds frequently flit back and forth between the countries.

Pakistan’s policy of selling licences to foreign hunters, including several from Arab countries, may be imperilling the Great Indian Bustard, Mr Sreenivasan said.

“The licences are really for the Houbara Bustard, a related bird,” he said. “But I find it likely that the hunters also shoot the Great Indian Bustard, and given Pakistan’s uncertain conservation climate, it is difficult to press for the protection of the Great Indian Bustard in that country.”
source: thenational.ae

New project to save Great Indian Bustard in Kurnool

The Great Indian Bustard in flight at the Rollapadu Sanctuary in Kurnool district. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Great Indian Bustard in flight at the Rollapadu Sanctuary in Kurnool district. Photo: Special Arrangement

The rare giant bird, Great Indian Bustard, is currently facing deep trouble due to ecological changes. According to an estimate, the endangered species has shrunk to just 300 in the entire globe. The birds at the Rollapadu Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Kurnool district have also dwindled to five from 10.

As the alarm bells are ringing, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and State Forest Department have launched a unique Species Recovery Programme to save the Great Indian Bustard, which will continue for a decade.

Majestic bird

The project will be implemented at the Rollapadu Great Indian Bird Sanctuary set up in 1987 in an area of 6.14 square km near Nandikotkur in Kurnool district.

The BNHS will spare a principal investigator and two researchers who will lead the project to improve the breeding, habitat development and help increase the numbers. Over a dozen staff members will assist the scientists.

The Great Indian Bustard is a majestic bird with an average height of up to 120 cm, long neck and legs and a brownish plumage. A mature bird weighs up to 14.5 kg, while female birds are 15 to 20 per cent less in height and weight.

The GIB feeds on locusts, beetles, butterflies, snakes, scorpions, lizards, mustard, pulses like Bengalgram and groundnut seed. The bird spends most of the time on the ground and flies only when it intends to undertake long flights to migrate to other areas. A bird lays one or two eggs in a breeding season, which is the August-December period in Rollapadu.

Detailed study

Farmers in Rollapadu area recall that the busty birds would flock around them during harvest time to pick up insects that got exposed from the ground. These scenes have disappeared completely now and even a decade ago the GIB population was estimated at 40-50.

Divisional Forest Officer at Atmakur, Mohammad Moiddin Nawab, who is incharge of the sanctuary, told The Hindu that in the first stage of the recovery programme, a detailed study would be undertaken to pinpoint the causes of the falling numbers.

According to a view, the characteristics of the habitat are changing rapidly after construction of the Alaganur Balancing Reservoir close to the sanctuary. Initially, everyone thought that improvement in water availability would help the sanctuary. But this was not so. The improved irrigation facilities around the sanctuary have transformed the ecosystem from grassland to wetland. Farmers have now shifted from dryland crops to paddy and other commercial crops, which consume large amounts of chemicals and pesticides.

Within the sanctuary, the number of co-species hostile to the GIB such as wolf and the blackbuck have increased rapidly.

The blackbuck population rose from 17 in 1982 to 1,000 now. Wolves relished GIB eggs and chicks. Last year gloom descended on the sanctuary when a wolf devoured a precious chick. Currently, two forest watchers are guarding an egg laid by a bird. Sometimes, stray cattle also trample on the eggs.

source: thehindu.com

Bustard’s egg baffles wildlife experts

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Jaipur: A recent bizarre discovery has created flutter among the wildlife conservationists of state. The discovery involving state bird Great Indian Bustard has raised questions about their reproduction pattern.

Recently, a bustard egg was discovered near Desert National Park. Interestingly, the birds lay eggs during summers as the availability of food increases during monsoons. The occurrence remains an unusual one as no earlier record of such happening exists.

The incident came to light on March 3 when a herder informed forest officials about the egg. Surprisingly, egg was laid in an area frequented by herders and happens to be in an unprotected area about 5km from Sudasri checkpost of DNP. “I heard about the discovery from officials. It is certainly a first incident,” Mal Singh, honorary wildlife warden, Jaisalmer, said adding, “No one has seen the courtship display in recent days. However, since the egg was laid, it is a sign of birds’ mating.”

Experts believe since the egg was discovered in March, the pairing would have happened in January when temperatures are lower than the usual time the birds breed. “January is a coldest month of the year in these parts. It is interesting to learn a specie long understood to lay eggs in warmer months has laid eggs in winter,” said Rajpal Singh, member, state board for wildlife.

Birds breed from late March to September. Males are often seen with an inflated gular sac which becomes a large wobbly bag and appears to hang down from neck. The displays are done on a raised ground from where the males can be seen from a few hundred metres. The male raises tail and folds it on back. It makes a resonant deep, booming call that may be heard from 500m. [daily.bhaskar.com]