The Last Great Indian
I guess you are unlikely to see
the above headline in your newspaper on 30th April, 2030! Not
because it is an unlikely event, but because it is unlikely to
What you will see, is perhaps, this ....
because that is how important this species is to all and sundry.
People who protect it, people who should protect it, people who
champion wildlife and environment causes, you and I!
The Great Indian Bustard is an unfortunate bird. It is at the wrong
place at the wrong time. This bird is too big, needs too much space,
and is finicky about its needs. Plus it flies, often long distances, and
far away from where it gets some protection. It is a difficult breeder
and is most unlikely to reproduce in captivity as some have suggested.
And worst, it is in demise when an icon is also declining. So all the
money, all the attention, all the charisma is with the tiger. Who
remembers a starlet when the real thing is around!
As a result, most ardent wildlife campaigners give this species the
foster-child treatment. There is either no money or no glamour in
fighting for this species – and everyone working in this field needs
one or the other. The forest officials are even worse. Some may not
even know that such a bird exists. And NGO's spend millions attaching
expensive gadgets to track Greylag and Bar-headed Geese but fail to
even try and find out where these birds roam, information that might
have helped protect them.
Apathy will be the reason for the loss of this bird for ever. Make no
When I first
wrote a note about the bird in March 2010 on kolkatabirds.com, there were
an estimated 999 birds per Birdllife International's global count.
Sometime in 2011-2012, Birdlife reduced that estimate to less than 300
(in 2008) based on updated information, and changed the status to
Critically Endangered. Most reports these
days suggest that no more than 250 birds survive worldwide at this
time, and some even consider that the actual number is lower.
We have no idea how old these surviving birds are and what is the sex
ratio. We don't know where they range through the year, and how many
are poached. We also have no idea of breeding success rates. We could
have had some of these issues covered if we cared. We did not, and
will continue not to! We need to save rhinos, tigers, elephants – we
need to read papers at international forums, we need to enthuse
children to save tigers, we have so many priorities and distractions!
Others should do it, not us! But the fact is that there are no others.
All the others save the tiger or the lion or the crane – fauna that
has international funding support and interest. The poor bustard has
only well wishers - no real champions here, or elsewhere in the world!
I am not sure if the bustard will be saved even if we devote time and
attention to it. I feel that the hump has been crossed and a series of
failed breeding attempts coupled with poisoning, poaching,
habitat-loss and age will gradually knock off the remaining birds over
time. Nothing you or I can do about it. But what about trying? Should
we not try to save this great iconic bird? Come
on tiger and elephant wallahs – you know how to do it, only you have
the resources and the skill, don't have this birds' blood on your
You can read more about the Great Indian Bustard here:
Sumit K. Sen
The opinions presented here are the author's own and does not
reflect the views of others associated with the website.
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