MAKING A strong plea for protecting the endangered bustards and their habitats, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) said that the Society had submitted a proposal ‘Project Bustards’ in this regard.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Director of the BNHS Dr Asad R Rahmani said that Project Bustards should be launched on the same lines as Project Tiger and Project Elephant to save all the four bustard species namely — the Great Indian Bustard, the Bengal Florican, the Lesser Florican, and the migratory Houbara Bustard (Macqeen’s) — and their habitats from imminent extinction.
The bustard species can be considered as indicators of grassland ecosystems, and by conserving the bustards and their habitats a very large number of species dependent on healthy grasslands can also be protected.
Therefore, said the director, the involvement of locals in the endeavour was necessary. “Unless and until the locals are taken into confidence, no effective conservation is possible,” said the conservationist. Like the tiger is considered the ‘spirit of Indian forests,’ the majestic Great Indian Bustard, the Lesser Florican and the Bengal Florican are indicators of the health of grassland ecosystems of the Indian plains. “The absence of the species is a warning enough that the quality of grassland was deteriorating,” he said.
“It’s pathetic that the great Indian Bustard has become extinct in Karera Bustard Sanctuary, while 2-4 survive in Ghatigaon Bustard Sanctuary and probably none in Sorsan Area of Rajasthan”, he lamented.
The grasslands are the most neglected and the least protected ecosystems in India. They will remain unprotected unless they are notified as Protected Areas under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 or notified as Protected or Reserve Forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
As regards the protected areas, Dr Rahmani said that there was an urgent need to look beyond the protected areas. “With nearly 40 per cent of our wildlife being present outside protected areas, there is an urgent need to look beyond protected areas and at larger landscapes,” said the Director.