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About the Great Indian Bustard

Context:

The Supreme Court recently directed the Centre to come clean on its plans to save the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Species in News, Conservation of Biodiversity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Great Indian Bustard
  2. About the Habitat of Great Indian Bustard
  3. On the brink of extinction
  4. Project Tiger

About the Great Indian Bustard

  • The Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.
  • GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.
  • The GIB is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and comes under the Appendix I of CITES, and Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Threats to the GIB include widespread hunting for sport and food, and activities such as mining, stone quarrying, excess use of pesticides, grassland conversion and power projects along with the expansion of roads and infrastructures such as wind-turbines and power cables.

About the Habitat of Great Indian Bustard

  • The Great Indian Bustard’s habitat includes Arid and semi-arid grasslands with scattered short scrub, bushes and low intensity cultivation in flat or gently undulating terrain. It avoids irrigated areas.
  • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10 per cent of it.
  • Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats. Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
  • GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.
  • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc.
On the brink of extinction
  • In 2020, the Central government had told the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) held in Gandhinagar, that the GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.
  • Of the 150 birds in 2020, over 120 birds were in Rajasthan, some were in Kutch district of Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Pakistan is also believed to host a few GIBs.
  • Due to the species’ smaller population size, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the brink of extinction from the wild.
  • Scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have been pointing out overhead power transmission lines as the biggest threat to the GIBs.

Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 by the Government of India.
  • The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the distribution of tigers in the country.
  • The project’s task force visualized these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests. Funds and commitment were mastered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project.
  • The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

-Source: The Hindu


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