Wildlife & Biodiversity

Only one male Great Indian Bustard left in Gujarat: experts

Most males in the area have fallen prey to power lines built by Suzlon and GETCO

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 09 July 2018
Photo: Forest Department Of Gujarat
Photo: Forest Department Of Gujarat Photo: Forest Department Of Gujarat

Media reports of there being only one male Great Indian Bustard (GIB) left in Gujarat’s Kutch district have been confirmed by experts.

“Over the last few years, no male breeding bird has been seen in and around the Naliya area in Kutch, which is the only place in Gujarat where the bird is found. There is only this one bird which is a sub-adult,” Sutirtha Dutta, a scientist and expert on the GIB at the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) told Down To Earth.

“Yes, it is confirmed. There are a couple of females and 1 male in the area who is a sub-adult,” veteran scientist from the Bombay Natural History Society or BNHS, Asad Rahmani confirmed.  

Both Dutta and Rahmani said the callousness and negligence of the government and forest department were responsible for the latest development. “It is a dire situation,” says Dutta. “In Kutch, the number of GIBs had reduced prior to independence due to excessive hunting. Post-independence, a change in agri-practices led to more decimation. And in the past few years, power lines finished the rest. Many of the power lines belong to GETCO or Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation. Many of the windmills connected to the power lines belong to Suzlon. While power lines cause the deaths of both, male and female birds, males, due to their being larger, heavier and slower in flight, fall prey more to power lines,” he reasoned.

Rahmani reminisces: “Fifteen years ago, when I was working in that area, there were 11 males. The government did not act to provide them proper protection, first from poaching and then, from the power lines. So you have the result before you.”

With there being only male left, what does it mean for the bird in Gujarat and on the national level?

“Right now, breeding in the area has stopped because there are no mature males left. We could bring this sub-adult into captivity but that is not possible right now as the captive breeding programme for the GIB, to be conducted jointly by the Rajasthan government, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the WII, has not started yet. Hence, proper captive facilities are not available right now. Formalities will be completed this month and things will start moving. But it will be a year till proper captive breeding facilities are built. Till then, we can only hope that this bird grows up and does not fall prey to power lines,” says Dutta.

And what about the bird on a national level? “We still have female birds in Rollapadu in Andhra Pradesh, which recently laid infertile eggs. There are also females in Gujarat. Such “doomed birds” can be brought to captive breeding facilities once they are established,” says Dutta.

He continues: “Rajasthan now holds the key to the survival of the bird nationally. It still has about 100 birds left. However, it has been losing 18 birds on average to power lines every year. In the last year alone, it lost 4 birds.”

How then, can the problem of power lines be solved? “There are two ways. In critical stretches, which we have identified, they can be shifted underground. In other areas, devices called “bird diverters” can be placed which can make power lines conspicuous to the birds and make them change their flight path. We are hopeful that this will be done soon in the Thar. I am a wee bit hopeful about the survival of the GIB,” says Dutta.

“I had predicted 20 years ago that we would lose this bird soon if we did not take proper steps. It is, after all, a bird of the grasslands. But today, there is hardly any grassland left. They are covered by human habitations and industries. What is left for these poor birds? I am giving it just another decade. It is a hardy bird. If we support it with captive breeding programmes and start in situ conservation with the collaboration of local communities, it still can survive,” says Rahmani.

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