Hopes of reviving Great Indian Bustard dashed

Robbed dreams

Hopes of reviving Great Indian Bustard dashed

Endangered: The Great Indian Bustard near Bellary. (Inset) Bustard’s egg.  Photo/Dinesh Singhe

Three years ago in 2006,  wildlife enthusiasts in the State were delighted on spotting the Great Indian Bustards- the critically endangered bird, in a remote village of Bellary.

However, the joy proved to be short-lived as the bustards had abandoned the village following human interference and had left an egg behind. To make matters worse, the hen selected to incubate the egg, destroyed it making the bird illusory in the State.

Naturalist and honorary wildlife warden of Bellary Santosh Martin, Society for Wildlife and Nature (SWaN) President Samad Kottur along with another wildlife enthusiast Anand Kundargi were a witness to the GIB sighting in 2006.

However, they were shocked to see the egg being abandoned on a barren patch of land in the village.

“ We had sighted the GIB incubating and were thrilled about it. Unfortunately, later the egg was found abandoned for unknown reasons. We could only suspect that the mother might have been disturbed by some locals or it could have been killed by poachers,” explained Martin.

Moreover, the naturalists waited for three days to check if the mother would come back to take her egg.

However, after realising that the mother had abandoned the egg, it was taken to be incubated by a hen.

“ We obtained permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden B K Singh and guidance from Dr Bharat Bushan of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS),” said Martin.

 Even though, the hen adopted the egg initially, weeks later the egg was found destroyed. What now remains of the egg are remnants of the shell and a bit of yolk.
“ The sighting of the GIB in 2006 could turn out to be the last sighting in the region. The bird is very sensitive to human interference and any kind of disturbance,” said Samad.    
If this egg had hatched, it would have been the second hatching in the State after the first hatching in Ranebennur in the early 1980s.

With an estimated 300 of Great Indian Bustards remaining in the world, the experts believe that if protective measures are not taken the birds are sure to become extinct.

Extinction imminent

“Due to habitat disturbance the Great Indian Bustard is already listed under the critically endangered list. Two decades ago the number of GIBs was 2,000. In the next five years, the extinction of the birds seem imminent,” said Dr Asad R Rahmani, a well-known ornithologist, and Director of BNHS, who has spent several years studying the behaviour of the bustard.

The remote village in rural Bellary, where the GIB was sighted in 2006 is one of the key habitats for conservation, as the bustards are sighted every year in pair. However, threat and interference to the birds was expected as the place where the birds roosted was an agricultural tract.

However, Samad argued that though the people’s movement might have not affected the bird’s existence.

The bird being highly sensitive it might have abandoned the place owing to even slight disturbance, said Dr Rahmani.

Rubbishing the claim of wildlife enthusiasts that the bird might have abandoned its  egg, he said that mismanagement by the forest department and ignorance of wildlife enthusiasts has made the birds abandon the sanctuaries in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka.

Endemic to the Indian sub-continent, the Great Indian Bustard prefers lightly grazed grassland as its habitat, which is flat, gentle and undulating.

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