Saturday, December 17, 2011

Great Indian Bustard Is Critically Endangered

According to the India's Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, written statement in the upper house of parliament the total population of Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is estimated to be 296 individuals. The State-wise details of estimated number of Great Indian Bustard in the country are as follows:
Name of State
Estimated Population (no. of individuals)
Madhya Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for birds, the Great Indian Bustard is on the brink of extinction and is now listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ species. The population of Great Indian Bustard has drastically reduced in the past few years due to several factors such as habitat loss and degradation, and illegal hunting.

Great Indian Bustard has been identified as one of the species under the “Recovery programme for saving critically endangered species and habitats” of the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’, wherein financial assistance is given for recovery programme of the species.

The Central Government has constituted a Task Force to formulate an action plan for the conservation of Great Indian Bustard in India. Funds have been released to the Government of Rajasthan for the Desert National Park under the ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’ for various activities, including protection of Great Indian Bustard and its habitat.

Details of funds released for the Desert National Park during the last three years as well as the current year are as follows: 

Name of the Protected Area
Amount released (Rs. in Lakh)
Desert National Park, Rajasthan

Last June the BirdLife International, an IUCN Red List partner, had announced the uplisting of Great Indian Bustard to critically endangered species level, indicating major danger to the bird species from extinction. Hunting, habitat loss and fragmentation have all conspired to reduce this magnificent species to perhaps as few as 250 individuals.
Standing a metre in height and weighing in at nearly 15 kg, the Great Indian Bustard was once widespread across the grasslands of India and Pakistan but is now restricted to small and isolated fragments of remaining habitat.

Human crowds constantly increasing and encroaching upon  other species' natural habitats, species that need lots of space, such as the Great Indian Bustard, are losing out. Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science and Policy, says that in long it is we who lose out due the loss of services that nature provides us.

In the year 2011 the total number of threatened bird species was 1,253, an alarming 13% of the world total. As compared to the previous year, 13 bird species had moved into the threatened categories. This was a disturbing trend; however the figures would have been much worse if conservation initiatives were not in place.

“Birds provide a window on the rest of nature. They are very useful indicators of ecosystem health: if they are faring badly, then so is wildlife more generally,” says Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Research and Indicators Coordinator, in a report earlier.

On international scene there are other species also on the edge of extinction. The Bahama Oriole (Icterus northropi) is among those newly listed as Critically Endangered. Recent survey work suggests the population of this beautiful black and yellow Caribbean bird could be as low as 180 individuals.

The orioles live in mature woodland, and nest in coconut palms. Lethal yellowing disease of these palms has wiped out nesting trees in areas where the oriole was previously common but is now absent.
However, apart from losing nesting habitat, the oriole is also threatened by the recent arrival of the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) a brood parasite that lays its eggs in other species’ nests.

According to Andy Symes, BirdLife’s Global Species Programme Officer Targeted conservation work has turned around fortunes of several species.The Campbell Island Teal, Anas nesiotis, has benefitted from a massive programme to eradicate rats, plus captive-breeding of remaining individuals. The species has now returned to New Zealand’s Campbell Island and the majority of birds are now thriving, resulting in a reclassification of the threat status to Endangered.

Three species of Atlantic island pigeon are also benefitting from conservation. The Madeira, White-tailed and Dark-tailed Laurel Pigeon (Columba trocaz of Madeira and C. junoniae and C. bollii of the Canary Islands) have all been classified at lower threat levels after threats such as habitat loss and hunting were addressed, coupled with an increased protection of suitable habitat.

While we need to redouble our efforts for conservation of threatened species, there is also a need to watch out the populations of those species currently in abundace, because there is growing invasion of agricultural lands, forests being converted to human habitation. In quest to protect human interests we should not sacrifice those rare inhabitants on the planet.

Other regional highlights

Americas: Pale-headed Brush-finch (Atlapetes pallidiceps) has been downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Black-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron dorsale) has been uplisted from Least Concertn to Endangered.
Pacific: Collared Petrel (Pterodroma brevipes) has been uplisted from Near Threatened to Endangered. Samoan Flycatcher (Myiagra albiventris) has been downlisted from Vulnerable to Near Threatened

Asia: Sula Megapode (Megapodius bernsteinii) has been uplisted from Near Threatened to Vulnerable
White-throated Wren-babbler (Rimator pasquieri) has been uplisted from Least Concern to Endangered

Africa: Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) has been uplisted from Least Concern to Vulnerable.
Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) has been uplisted from Least Concern to Endangered.

Europe and the Middle East: Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) has been downlisted from Vulnerable to Least Concern. Socotra Buzzard (Buteo socotraensis) is newly described and has been listed as Vulnerable.

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