On Monday, the Central authorities knowledgeable the Rajya Sabha that there have been no Nice Indian Bustards (GIB) in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary (KBS) in Gujarat’s Kutch district as on January 1 this 12 months. The reply, which got here in response to a query requested by Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil, raised many eyebrows amongst conservationists and wildlife lovers because it had come simply three months after the Supreme Courtroom order to energy corporations to position their overhead powerlines underground in GIB habitat in Rajasthan and and Kutch to avoid wasting the species from going extinct.
GIBs and their habitats
GIBs are the most important among the many 4 bustard species present in India, the opposite three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican. GIBs’ historic vary included a lot of the Indian sub-continent but it surely has now shrunken to only 10 per cent of it. Among the many heaviest birds with flight, GIBs choose grasslands as their habitats. Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the bottom with occasional flights to go from one a part of their habitat to the opposite. They feed on bugs, lizards, grass seeds and so on. GIBs are thought-about the flagship chook species of grassland and therefore barometers of the well being of grassland ecosystems.
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Getting ready to extinction
In February final 12 months, the Central authorities had advised the thirteenth Convention of Events to the United Nations Conference on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) held in Gandhinagar, that the GIB inhabitants in India had fallen to only 150. Of them 128 birds have been in Rajasthan, 10 in Kutch district of Gujarat and some in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Pakistan can also be believed to host a couple of GIBs. The historic vary of those majestic birds included a lot of Indian sub-continent but it surely has now shrunk by 90 per cent, consultants say. As a result of species’ smaller inhabitants dimension, the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the point of extinction from the wild.
Scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have been mentioning overhead energy transmission strains as the largest menace to the GIBs. WII analysis has concluded that in Rajasthan, 18 GIBs die yearly after colliding with overhead powerlines because the birds, attributable to their poor frontal imaginative and prescient, can’t detect powerlines in time and their weight make in-flight fast manoeuvres tough. Coincidentally, Kutch and Thar desert are the locations which have witnessed creation of giant renewable vitality infrastructure over the previous twenty years, resulting in set up of windmills and development of energy strains even in core GIB areas. For instance, windmills whirr on the north, south and western border of the 202-hectare KBS whereas two energy transmission strains run on its japanese border. KBS has additionally recorded deaths of two GIBs after hitting powerlines. Change in panorama by means of farmers cultivating their land, which in any other case used to stay fallow attributable to frequent droughts in Kutch, and cultivation of cotton and wheat as an alternative of pulses and fodder are additionally cited as causes for falling GIB numbers.
Why no bustard in KBS
KBS close to Naliya in Kutch district’s Abdasa block is a tiny sanctuary notified in 1992 and unfold over simply two sq. kilometres (sqkm). However its eco-sensitive zone unfold over 220 sqkm covers most of present-day core GIB habitat. The creation of safe-haven for the birds led to a rise within the GIB inhabitants in KBS—from 30 in 1999 to 45 in 2007. However windmills and powerlines began arising proper on the borders of the sanctuary from 2008 onward and GIB numbers began dwindling therefore. The inhabitants fell to only 25 people by 2016 and discipline employees of KBS say, now there are solely seven, all of them feminine. No male has been sighted for the previous two years. In addition to the KBS, Prajau, Bhanada and Kunathia-Bhachunda are essential grasslands which have been declared unclassified forests just lately. As a result of barrier created by the ability infrastructure on all its sides, sightings of GIB contained in the KBS’ notified two sqkm space is changing into more and more uncommon.
Supreme Courtroom’s intervention
In response to a petition filed by Ranjitsinh Jhala, the retired IAS officer identified for his efforts for conserving wildlife within the nation, the Supreme Courtroom in April this 12 months ordered that every one overhead energy transmission strains in core and potential GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat needs to be undergrounded. The SC additionally shaped a three-member committee, together with Devesh Gadhvi, the member of the bustard specialist group of IUCN, to assist energy corporations adjust to the order. However Gadhvi notes that nothing has occurred on the bottom.
In 2015, the Central authorities launched the GIB species restoration programme. Below the programme, the WII and Rajasthan forest division have collectively arrange conservation breeding centres the place GIB eggs harvested from the wild are incubated artificially and hatchlings raised in managed atmosphere. Until final 12 months, 9 eggs had hatched efficiently and the plan is to create a inhabitants which may act as insurance coverage in opposition to the specter of extinction and launch the third technology of those captive-bred birds into the wild.