Thursday, June 9, 2011

IUCN classifies GIB 'critically endangered'.

NAGPUR: Great Indian Bustard (GIB), the majestic bird of the Indian grasslands, locally known as Maldhok, has now been classified as 'critically endangered', the highest level of threat as per the criteria of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The IUCN Red List 2011 of threatened birds released by UK-based BirdLife International has also observed that big birds suffer the most due to growing human disturbance, habitat loss and hunting.
Speaking on the issue, Asad Rahmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said, "There is an urgent need to start 'project bustard' on a long-term basis, based on scientific recommendations of studies conducted by BNHS and Wildlife Institute of India ( WII)."
Rahmani also suggested that GIB conservation breeding programme should be started with the help of national and international experts. BNHS is the India partner of BirdLife International and has been studying GIB for more than a decade.
GIB faces a myriad of challenges in the form of habitat loss and fragmentation of habitat, apart from hunting. Grasslands, which are GIB habitats, have been the most neglected habitat in India. Already most grassland has been converted into agricultural lands or has been degraded by excessive cattle grazing.
Rahmani says the burgeoning population and the resultant pressure on land due to 'developmental' works is the main reason behind the habitat loss. Standing one metre tall and weighing about 15kg, GIB was once widespread across the grasslands of India.
It is estimated that the total number of GIB in India at present is not more than 250. Of this, one-fourth of the population is stated to be in Maharashtra. In Vidarbha, 8-10 birds were recorded in Warora tehsil and Nagpur district during the annual survey conducted last year. In bustard sanctuary, Nannaj, there are 30-35 birds. 
However, expert Dr Pramod Patil says, "We are not getting proper records of GIBs and chicks for the past three years in the sanctuary. This is disastrous and we need to act before it turns out to be another Sariska for GIB."
GIB conservationist Gopal Thosar says the biggest threat GIBs face in Warora is from the flurry of mines and power plants that are coming up in the area. "It's high time the wildlife wing of the forest department chalks out a comprehensive action plan to save the endangered birds," Thosar felt.
Thosar added that the GIBs are taking to farm lands as its habitat is vanishing fast. Farmers protecting these birds on their land need to be honoured and benefited.
At present GIBs are found only in scattered populations across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The gradual disappearance of GIB from the already diminishing Indian grasslands further shows the bad state of its habitat. The Asiatic Cheetah had become extinct from the Indian grasslands even before independence.
With the destruction of grasslands other dependent species such as other members of the bustard family - lesser florican, houbara bustard and great bustard - and animals such as blackbuck, chinkara, Indian wolf, golden jackal, Indian fox and nilgai also are under threat.

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