The Tale of Great Indian Bustard
The Great Indian Bustard is a large, spectacular bird found in the grasslands of India and parts of Pakistan. In 2008, the bustard population worldwide was estimated to be at around 300, however, presently the number of mature individuals is said to be placed between 60 to 250.
It is a critically endangered bird and has suffered due to human activities, mainly mining and hunting.
It is commonly claimed that the bustard was once a contender for the title of the National Bird of India. After losing its spot for the title, the Great Indian Bustard has been facing constant threats due to poaching, habitat loss and unavailability of food.
How RIST is Protecting GIB
The Rural India Support Trust (RIST) was established in 2009 as a grant-making organization. Their project of Conservation of Great Indian Bustard began in 2020. RIST collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to understand and assist in saving bustards in Rajasthan. The initiative is currently engaged in Desert National Park, Jaisalmer and Pokhran, which are two major spots for the GIB.
They value community participation and with the goal of saving the bustard from extinction, they have trained various local individuals and communities. The project is also assisted by various government authorities and other NGOs to prepare the local stakeholders in capacity-building exercises.
Reducing Grasslands: A Major Concern
Great Indian Bustards essentially belong to the grassland ecosystem and there has been serious neglect of grasslands all across the country. This grassland species is practically extinct from 95% of its range now. Grasslands are crucial to vegetation and various endangered animal and bird species. Grasslands have an important function in the livelihood of both humans and animals. While humans use grasslands as grazing fields for domestic cattle, animals and birds use them as shelter and to be safe from predators.
Bustards make their nests on the ground in the open in such an ecosystem. Since it’s a large bird, it lays only an egg during one breeding season. The mother performs all parental roles, if the egg is destroyed by predators or is infertile only then does the mother Bustard lay another egg. The declining density of grasslands and lack of legal framework has contributed to driving the species to critically endangered status.