No Great Indian Bustard found in Maharashtra

In a survey conducted across 11 districts in Maharashtra by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, not a single Great Indian Bustard (GIB) was recorded. The survey was carried out between September 25 and September 30 2107.

The scientists still maintain that, the finding may not imply that the bird is extinct in the state. Though the survey team did not record any of the species, around 700-1400 residents who were surveyed through a questionnaire, confirmed the presence of GIBs in their area in a time span ranging from September 20 and September 24 to the previous six months.

The studies /surveys so far have estimated the presence of only 8-10 GIBs in the state, which is a disturbing fact.

GIB is a very slow-breeding bird. Once a female GIB hatches an egg, it will stay with the young one for the next two years, and won’t hatch another egg. So if there are two female GIBs, there will be only two offsprings in two years.

Ornithologist and author Bikram Grewal, who was not involved in the survey said that, “GIB will be the first bird to go extinct in our lifetime, and it could happen in a decade. Less than eight birds in Maharashtra is quite disastrous. There are various estimates but none that is higher than 200 in the country. My personal estimate is as low as 50-100. Other than doing lip service, no one is interested whether it goes or comes. There is apathy, and no will to save it because the government thinks that the environment comes in the way of the nation’s progress.”

The WII report has identified 12,528 square kilometers of area in 11 clusters across 12 forest divisions, as important for protection of GIBs in the state. A major part of the habitat of the Great Indian Bustards has kharif crop fields where these majestic birds prefer to forage. So the WII report has also asked for incentivising traditional cropping to help the Great Indian Bustards. It is very important to monitor these 11 clusters 2-3 times a year for the next couple of years. If the habitat is preserved then the likelihood of survival of the species goes up.

The WII report also has said that “There is a need to put reflectors on power lines in such areas. Measures should be taken to monitor and control the growth of dog populations in such area."

It is very important to remove the invasive species. There is also an urgent need to raise awareness about the identified clusters with an option to promote traditional crops. Studies have shown that Rajasthan has the highest population of 100-150 and there are at present around 250 GIBs in different parts of the country.