The only species named after India, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), and one of the world’s heaviest flying birds is close to extinction,
global wildlife watchdog International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) has said.Their number has fallen to less than 250 from about 1,000 in 2008 and over 20,000 to 40,000 after India’s independence. Therefore, the IUCN has upgraded the bird, weighing around 15 kg, found in India and Pakistan, from endangered to critically endangered, meaning that if corrective steps are not taken the bird will vanish.
Asad Rahmani, director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said there was an urgent need to start Project Bustard on long term basis.
The environment ministry has a programme for endangered species such as GIB but not on the scale of the ones for tigers and elephants. Rahmani said breeding of Australian and Kiro Bustards have been successful and India should a breeding programme on similar lines.
The job many not be easy as a study by experts in 2011 of the DNA in 63 samples from 5 states found very low genetic diversity suggesting a historical population reduction and said attempts to breed them in captivity have failed.
In the last two decades, green habitats of the Great Indian Bustard have been converted into agricultural lands or degraded by excessive cattle grazing. The grassland in Madhya Pradesh has got submerged in Indira Sarovar Dam and in Rajasthan lost to excessive grazing. There have also been some incidents of poaching.