Wildlife & Biodiversity

There are 150 Bustards in the Desert National Park, claims report

Wildlife Institute of India pegged the species' total population for the whole country at 150 during 2018

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Tuesday 16 April 2019
A Great Indian Bustard in Naliya, Kutch. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A Great Indian Bustard in Naliya, Kutch. Photo: Wikimedia Commons A Great Indian Bustard in Naliya, Kutch. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

There are 150 Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Rajasthan's Desert National Park (DNP), the Times of India reported on April 15, 2019 quoting a state forest official. The claim doesn't completely align with a previous report of 150 birds of the species for the whole of India, put forward by the Wildlie Institute of India.

The bird, a critically endangered species listed in the International Union for conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List, is also found in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The DNP, spread over Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner districts, however remains its main habitat.

According to the April 15, report, the Rajasthan forest department wrote to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), saying its survey found 150 GIBs in the Jaisalmer area. The NGT had directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to submit a ‘factual report’ by the Rajasthan forest department based on a petition filed by the Centre for Wildlife and Environment Litigation. The official quoted said they had acted on the NGT’s directive, the report added.

The 2018, report put the nmber of GIBs in the whole state at 128 while it found 22 birds elsewhere.

“We have been doing collaborative surveys with the Rajasthan forest department since 2014. In March 2017, we again worked with them in the DNP and the Bikaner, Jodhpur and Barmer areas to count GIBs. But our survey was not complete. In April 2018, we took the help of the Indian Army. Then, we collated and combined the findings of both surveys and came up with the number of 120 +-19 birds in Rajasthan,” said Sutirtha Dutta, scientist and faculty at WII.

“We found that the bustard landscape in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan had a population of 20 birds. The grand total for the whole of India is 150,” he added.

The Gujarat total of 10 birds was based on WII’s own observations of birds in the Naliya grasslands of Kutch. The Maharashtra findings of 1-8 birds came from a 2018 paper published by WII scientist and faculty, Bilal Habib. “For the southern states, the tally of 10-12 birds was based on information from local people,” said Dutta.

Does the DNP really host 150 GIBs? During the last four surveys, at least 38 (2014), 40 (2015), 37 (2016) and 37 (2017) GIBs were detected in the DNP. “These are the minimum numbers of birds that were found in the DNP. It shows that there has been hardly any increase in population of GIBs in the DNP over successive years,” Dutta said.

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