Coming to the rescue of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), the Supreme Court has mooted the idea of launching ‘Project GIB’ on the lines of ‘Project Tiger’. Project Tiger was started in 1973 to save the big cats. The apex court has sought the government’s view on the proposal.

 

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.

 

Supreme Court’s intervention

  • The Supreme Court in April 2021 ordered that all overhead power transmission lines in core and potential GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat be made underground.
  • The SC also formed a three-member committee, including Devesh Gadhvi, the member of the bustard specialist group of IUCN, to help power companies comply with the order.
  • Again, in November 2022, the court sought reports from chief secretaries of the two states in six weeks on installation of bird diverters in priority areas.
  • It also asked them to assess the length of transmission lines that need to go underground.

 

About ‘Project Tiger’ –

  • The Government of India had launched “Project Tiger” on 1st April 1973 to promote conservation of the tiger.
  • The Project Tiger Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Forests was mandated with the task of providing technical guidance and funding support.
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) —
    • Project Tiger has been converted into a statutory authority (NTCA) by providing enabling provisions in the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 through an amendment, viz. Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006.
    • The NTCA addresses the ecological as well as administrative concerns for conserving tigers.
    • It provides a statutory basis for protection of tiger reserves, apart from providing strengthened institutional mechanisms for the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and endangered species.