The recent sighting of three Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) deep in Pakistans Cholistan desert has given rise to speculation that the endangered birds might have flown across the international border from Indias Desert National Park (DNP).

 

About the ‘Great Indian Bustards

  • The Great Indian Bustard, found mainly in the Indian subcontinent, is the flagship grassland species of India.
  • It is one of the largest flying birds in the world, and Indias heaviest flying bird.
  • The male bird weighs upto 12-15 kg and female bird up to 5-8 kg.
  • Physical description — Black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head. The body is brownish and the wings are marked with black, brown and grey.
  • Diet — They feed on grass seeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, and sometimes even small rodents and reptiles. The species primarily feed on meswak, sewan grass.
  • Distribution —
      • Its population of about 150 in Rajasthan accounts for 95% of its total world population.
      • They are mainly in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, including the Desert National Park which is the natural habitat of the species.
      • Grasslands of Kutch in Gujarat which is home to second-largest bustard population in India.
      • Arid regions of Maharashtra (Solapur), Karnataka (Bellary and Haveri) and Andhra Pradesh (Kurnool)
      • It is the State bird of Rajasthan.
  • Conservation status —
      • Listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,
      • Listed in Appendix I of CITES,
      • Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • Breeding season — The breeding season spans from March to October.
  • Captive breeding —
      • The captive breeding of GIBs was taken up in the DNP through a project executed by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India in 2019.
      • As many as 24 GIB chicks are being reared in DNP by a team supported by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation of United Arab Emirates.
  • Threats —
      • Occasional poaching outside Protected Areas,
      • Habitat loss due to widespread agricultural expansion, infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electric poles, as well as mining and industrialisation,
      • Bustards, with their poor frontal vision and heavy bodies, have also died due to collision with high tension electric wires.