Gujarat forest dept to resurvey Great Indian Bustard population

The forest department will re-survey the population of critically-endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) next month. This comes even as national and international conservation bodies, including the Centre, are stepping up efforts to better protect the large, flightless bird that was recently included in the list of the world's 100 most endangered species.

State's Chief Wildlife Warden Dr C N Pandey said the planned survey is primarily to ascertain whether the bird's population trend is healthy as believed to be.

The GIB lays just one egg, and in rare cases two, per year, even as its habitat continues to be under threat by human activity.

The last survey pegged its population in the Naliya grasslands of Kutch, its sole habitat in Gujarat, at 39 to 40, while an assessment by the Birdlife International for the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red-list of endangered species pegs the population in Kutch at less than 30.

The IUCN assessment blamed "ill-defined land distribution policies" and "encroachment" of its habitat as major threats to the bird. On its part, the forest department had last year sanctioned an increase in the size of the Bustard Sanctuary from 2 sq kms to 37 sq kms.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, in an action plan finalised last year, had ordered acquisition of all revenue and gauchar land falling under 16 villages where the birds breed, and that this "breeding refuge" be fenced off and 10 watchers posted nearby during the four breeding months.

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