State plans to conserve Great Indian bustards, vultures
At present, there are only two Great Indian bustards left in the state at the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Solapur. The national population in the wild stands at less than 140 individuals. Most are confined to Rajasthan
Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is in talks with the state governments of Rajasthan, Haryana, the Union environment ministry and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to establish in and ex-situ conservation programs for the critically endangered Great Indian bustard, along with long-billed vultures and white-rumped vultures. Ex-situ conservation means the conservation of species outside their natural habitat.
At present, there are only two Great Indian bustards left in the state at the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Solapur. The national population in the wild stands at less than 140 individuals. Most are confined to Rajasthan.
“We are working with the Maharashtra forest department, and the Rajasthan government on a proposal for Great Indian bustard conservation in the state. A suitable land parcel for captive breeding has also been identified near Nannaj. The state will seek permission from the Centre soon, once a proposal is ready. We are still working out all the modalities. Rearing Maharashtra’s two remaining birds in captivity, to maintain the generic distinction, is being seriously considered,” said Kishore Rithe, interim director, BNHS.
“These grasslands in Solapur and Ahmednagar are the only really suitable habitats left for the bird in Maharashtra,” he added.
The state government has also reached an agreement with the Haryana forest department to translocate 20 pairs of vultures (white-rumped and long-billed), which are presently only found in the protected areas of Melghat, Pench and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserves in eastern Maharashtra. Plans are also afoot to establish a captive breeding centre in Ajneri near Nashik, for which the forest department has identified land.
“We will be sending one pair of vultures from our captive breeding centre in Pinjore, Haryana, to Maharashtra so that the birds can hopefully start breeding there within a couple of years after relocation,” said Nikita Prakash, who heads BNHS’ captive breeding program in Haryana.
Over the next couple of months, the forest department will be building pre-release aviaries for the 20 vultures in Melghat, Pench, and Tadoba, where the birds will be acclimatised, fed and checked for any injuries and illnesses.
“Once these enclosures are ready, the chief wildlife warden’s office will seek permission from the Union environment ministry to transport the birds from Haryana. Releasing them will take longer. We will have to survey their habitat extensively to ensure that it is a ‘vulture safe zone’. This means testing more than 600 carcasses of wild animals, mainly from tiger kills, to ensure that there are no traces of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the vultures’ food. Administration of such drugs to livestock, particularly diclofenac, has caused the population of vultures in India to crash heavily,” Rithe explained.