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Rajasthan launches campaign to save Great Indian Bustard

Mint, New Delhi, 7th June, 2013

Rajasthan became the first state in the country to launch a campaign to save the Great Indian Bustard, which is on the brink of extinction.

Once in contention for being nominated as the national bird of India, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is now on the brink of extinction with just 200 or so left in the wild.
Rajasthan will implement a state-level action plan for the recovery of the state bird, known locally as the Godavan.
The state is currently home to the largest global population of the bird.
The bird also survives in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
In November 2011, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) convened an emergency workshop where non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts were asked to submit an urgent bustard-recovery programme.

In July last year, the ministry finalized the guidelines for a state action plan for a bustard-recovery programme after extensive consultation with stakeholders including the government, NGOs, national and international scientists and civil society.

In this document, conservationists and experts proposed grassland conservation plans with bustards as the “umbrella” species, as part of a species-recovery plan (SRP). The main purpose of the SRP is to secure the long-term persistence of the Great Indian Bustard and its habitat.
It broadly advocates: (a) research and monitoring, (b) protection, management and restricted human use of core GIB breeding areas, (c) linking local livelihood with bustard conservation by consolidating government and community institutions in GIB landscapes, (d) conservation education and awareness of local communities, (e) training of managers, and (f) a conservation breeding programme as security.
The states cited above were asked to pitch in with state-level as well as site-specific plans. Rajasthan has submitted a Rs.60 crore plan to the ministry for a period of five years.

The state has additionally earmarked Rs.12.9 crore for the project, of which Rs.4.55 crore will be deployed this fiscal year.

“India finished with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) last year and is a signatory to the Aichi targets. Target 12 deals with stopping species extinction. Just last month, the CBD and a range of scientific NGOs announced ‘Friends of Target 12’ to ensure threatened species do not go extinct worldwide. But none of these targets mean anything if we don’t have scientific and coordinated field action,” said Neha Sinha, advocacy and policy officer, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
“The GIB is possibly one of the most critical of critically endangered species in India and needs urgent, urgent help. Rajasthan starting a landscape-approach Project GIB is a welcome step. We will also need similar steps for the lesser florican which shares habitat with Rajasthan’s state animal, chinkara,” she said.

On the basis of this recovery plan, BNHS has advised Rajasthan on certain steps for GIB recovery, such as planting GIB friendly crops, working with communities on protecting lekking and breeding sites, and stemming poaching.

GIB is an indicator species for grassland habitats and its gradual disappearance from such environments shows their deterioration. The destruction of grasslands has also affected other members of the bustard family—the lesser florican, the Houbara Bustard and Bengal florican—and animals such as the black buck, the chinkara, the Indian wolf, the golden jackal, the Indian fox and the nilgai have also come under threat. This also brings many of these animal species into conflict with humans, according to a BNHS statement.

Apart from the recovery programme in the wild, “there is an urgent need for captive breeding and release”, said Prakriti Srivastava, who drafted the recovery programme as deputy inspector general (wildlife), MoEF. “This has to happen within the next six months if we are serious on saving the GIB like the endangered vultures.”

The captive breeding issue was discussed on Thursday by the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife.