Losing habitat, vulnerable to predators and power lines, there are fewer than 150 individuals of the state bird of Rajasthan left
The Great Indian bustard (GIB) is the state bird of Rajasthan. Despite being a large bird, GIB falls in the ‘critically endangered’ category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. The GIB is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. But now, its population is limited to the grasslands of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The last census in 2018 counted less than 150 individuals in the wild, of which 122 were in Jaisalmer. It is suspected their numbers may be fewer than 100 at present. Photo: Vikas Choudhary
The birds are slow breeders and lay just one egg every year, which increases the danger to the species. It is about a metre in height, with a wing span of two metres, and an adult weighs up to 18 kilogrammes. As one of the heaviest flying birds, GIBs make their nests on small depressions on the ground. However, this leaves their eggs vulnerable to other predators like free-ranging dogs. Photo: Vikas Choudhary
Till the 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states. But rampant hunting and egg collection played a massive role in their decline. The birds are also slowly losing their habitat as dry grasslands have been diverted for other use. Pesticide contamination and increasing populations of feral dogs and pigs, along with native predators, also puts pressure on the nests. Photo: Vikas Choudhary
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change prepared a species recovery programme for the Great Indian Bustard in January 2012. However, progress has been negligible, with alarm bells ringing over the extinction of the species. Experts call for urgent action to save the species, which could otherwise go the same way as the Indian Cheetah. Photo: Vikas Choudhary
Most of the population of the species is confined to the Jaisalmer Desert National Park in Rajasthan. But power transmission lines from the wind power stations in the area also pose a threat to GIB. A total of seven bustards died in 2022 due to electrocution. Experts fear that if we fail to protect the grasslands and the natural habitats of the bird, we will only be able to see it in captivity, like in zoos. Photo: Vikas Choudhary
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