With an objective of conservation of the remaining population of critically endangered Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps, locally called Godawan, an ambitious conservation program namely, Project Great Indian Bustard, has was launched by Honorable Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot on 5thof June 2013. Probably more vulnerable to extinction than even tiger, Great Indian Bustard, although it was brought under the umbrella of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, it did not gain attention and remained BPL (Below Protection Line); the Project Bustard can be seen as a dawn of a new era for the conservation of neglected species like Great Indian Bustard which is also the state bird of Rajasthan.
The rapid decline in its population across its distribution has already alarmed wildlife experts, ornithologists and bird lovers across the world. The main reasons cited for its decline are habitat loss due to conversion of grasslands to other purposes, anthropogenic and related biotic disturbances during its breeding season and frequent poaching of the species as game bird.
A grassland species, Great Indian Bustard, is often considered as indicators of the health of our grasslands or pulse of grassland ecosystem which are unfortunately remained neglected and being considered as wastelands. These grasslands actually play an important role in the economy of the local communities as they support their livestock in terms of grazing. Roughly 15-20 percent of the livestock population of the world resides in India and one can imagine the dependence of them on the grasslands. So there is direct dependence of a major part of human population on these dwindling grasslands of India.
Once more than 1000 individuals few decades back, bustard population shrunk to 745 in the year 1978, 600 in 2001, 300 in 2008 and not more than 125 in the current year, 2013. Being custodian of more than 50 percent population of bustard across the world, the desert state of Rajasthan does not want to be a mere spectator of the total extermination of the species across the globe, took up the responsibility for the conservation of this species and its habitat for our future generations by becoming a first state in launching the Project Bustard, initially in the DNP Sanctuary, located in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan.
What should be done?
Godawan can be conserved only through its protection and its habitat through following activities:
1. Intensive Patrolling by the field staff
2. Developing intelligence network in the area.
3. Making of check posts and barriers at strategic locations
4. Creation of a flying squad headed by not below the rank of a range officer.
5. Strengthening of existing Wireless Network
6. Habitat protection through creation of some inviolate areas for the bird by making some closures of appropriate size and restricting anthropogenic pressures
7. Habitat enrichment through planting grasses like Lasiurus sindicus(sewan grass)and providing water facilities like water gazellers.
8. Incentives to farmers and local people for giving information and protection of the species.
9. Involving local people in the eco-development and eco-tourism activities.
10. Generating mass awareness and sensitization among the masses.
11. Continuous monitoring of the species and habitat
About Desert National Park
As a representative of desert ecosystem, an area of 3162 square kilometers of Thar Desert spreading in the districts of Jaisalmer and Barmer was notified as Desert National Park Sanctuary in the year 1980 with an objective of conservation of unique biological diversity of this desert ecosystem including Great Indian Bustard along with various ecological processes, aesthetic beauty and cultural heritage of this desert ecosystem. Among faunal components, Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps is the flagship species with its population ranging from 35 to 40 is mainly concentrated in the Sudashri landscape area of DNP Sanctuary, which is the northern part of the sanctuary. There is another satellite called Naath ji ka tanka- Ramdeora Closure having a population of 5 to 10 individuals. Houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata, locally called Tilor is a migratory bustard and is well known to winter in DNP Sanctuary. State animal, The Indian Gazelle or Chinkara can be seen galloping in the golden sand dunes of the area or feeding in close proximity to GIB. Desert Fox, Indian Fox, Desert cat are the major carnivores in the area and do play an important role in various food webs and ecological processes. Other mammals include Indian hare, Hedge hogs and many others. Indian Monitor, Desert Monitor, Spiny-tailed Lizard, Sand Lizards and many snakes are the representatives of the reptiles of the area. So far more than 200 bird species have been reported from this landscape. Apart from flag ship species described above DNP Sanctuary is well known for a number of birds of prey including Steppe Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Laggar Falcon, Common Kestrel, Red-headed Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Egyptian vulture. Hundreds of sand grouses, Grey Francolins, Larks can be seen in the area. Unfortunately Imperial Sangrouse is not being report for last couple of years.
A Beetle A family of desert fox
Chinkara of desert Closures can provide
inviolate space or the GIB
Canel Sarari in Desert Salvadora Fruits Desert
Desert Cat GIB gular
Involvement of the local communities is the key to the problems
Steppe eagle taking off