Pushing A Rare Species Closer To The Brink
The earth has already lost many birds for good, and scores of other varieties are tantalizingly close to their final journey from earth as their fast-shrinking habitats can no longer support them
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In the din and bustle of modern day life, the ornithologists’ lament about the extinction of bird species has fallen in deaf ears. The earth has already lost many birds for good, and scores of other varieties are tantalizingly close to their final journey from earth as their fast-shrinking habitats can no longer support them.
Such decline of one of the most beautiful creations of nature must warrant serious re-look at our conservation efforts. As per a list compiled by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as many as 145 bird species in India are on the verge of extinction. The Great Indian Bustard is one amongst them.
Some bustard-watchers peg the number of surviving bustard number at just 250. It thrives on grasslands of India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. It is a large-sized heavy bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs. In look, it resembles the Ostrich. This bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds. Its heavy body undermines its defense as it struggles to fly away from the predator. Human habitation, grazing by cattle, and industrialization have led to the fast depletion of grasslands.
The Bombay Natural History Society has done some commendable work in trying to asses the dangers facing the Great Indian Bustard. The Lesser Florican (Known as Likh) and the Bengal Florican (known as the Bengal Bustard) are birds of the same species as the Great Indian Bustard. These two species are also facing similar dangers to their existence.
To reverse the dwindling trend of these three endangered bird varieties, a scientific conservation programme which will have the support of the human population on the ground is needed. Rajasthan has done some praiseworthy work in this direction. Bustards are Rajasthan’s unique treasure.
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are the other states where Bustards live, although not in as great numbers as in Rajasthan. It is difficult to confine these birds to an allocated area as they have a tendency to trespass into adjoining areas of human habitation. In flying into areas where the cattle also graze, they get into a competition to grab the limited green vegetation.
As a measure to avoid such a competition, an arrangement to supply enough fodder to the cattle can be implemented. This will reduce their grazing needs. By doing this, the Bustards can get enough grassland and the insects living in the land can escape devastation. It is well-known that the birds and insects complement and supplement one another.
Forest officials in Karnataka and elsewhere have converted the open grasslands to plantation areas to grow exotic types of trees. This step has not been prudent for Bustard conservation.
Such a mistake was done in the Nannanj sanctuary in Maharastra. Conservationists realized it, and have since reversed the land use to grow grass. Consequently, the Bustards have come back in numbers. The footfalls of the tourists and their insensitiveness, however, loom over these Bustard havens restored with such great effort.
The higher compensation available to owners of lands under the new Land Acquisition Act might lead to some unwanted consequences for Bustard conservation. The lure of monetary gain may drive the farmers to convert the left-over grasslands to farming. As a result, grasslands would shrink fast, depriving the Bustard of their habitat. This can however be taken care of by separately notifying the Bustard habitation areas. Farmers can be compensated in other ways.
In the final analysis, regenerating the Bustard population will eliminate the possibility of loss of such an invaluable heritage of Nature.
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