Great Indian Bustard Conservation
 Why should I be aware of this?
Today, fewer than 500 Great India Bustards remain in India, indeed on Planet Earth. They have disappeared from 95 per cent of their former range and are locally extinct now in former habitats, even in areas earmarked for its protection. They are totally eliminated from former sanctuaries, such as Karera in Madhya Pradesh, Rannibenur in Karnataka and Sorsan in Rajasthan. Where it does survive, the numbers are dangerously low.
There are 22 species of bustards in the world, 16 of which are found in Africa. The Indian subcontinent had six species: GIB, Houbara or Macqueen's bustard, Lesser Florican and Bengal Florican, but in the last 80 years, there has been no record of the existence of the Great and Little bustards. Houbara bustard is purely migratory and seen in arid parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat during winter.
Though never found in large concentrations, not so long ago, the bustards existed in sufficient numbers. It is intriguing to discover that bustards thrived in the last century where the metropolis of Bengalaru (formerly Bangalore) exists now. The Oriental Sports Magazine records a hunter bagging 961 birds in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra.
 All about the Great Indian Bustard
Great India Bustards have been hunted indiscriminately for years. Even though it was one of the first birds to be protected under the Wild Animals Protection Act, 1953, and is currently given the highest protection as a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife Protection Act, enforcement of the law leaves much to be required. Interestingly, the Great India Bustard was not always the target, but was hunted simply because it was there. The prize catch was yet another very rare bird, Houbara Bustard, a sprightly bird and a gourmet’s delight. But due to the Houbara Bustard’s elusive nature, ‘sportsmen’ settled for the not-so-delicious but substantial quantity of meat that the Great India Bustard offered.
In the early 1980s, the five states of India where the Indian Bustard was still found (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh) adopted conservation measures and eight protected areas were declared. Despite these conservation measures, the status of the Indian Bustard has sharply deteriorated in the last 10 years. Poaching continues to be a threat, especially in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Great Indian Bustard Numbers
|Karera Bustard Sanctuary, M.P||25-30||Extinct|
|Ghatigaon Bustard Sanctuary||15-18||Extinct|
|Rannibenur Blackbuck Sanctuary, Karnataka||5-10||Extinct|
|Desert National Park||> 200||Declining|
|Rollapadu, Andhra Pradesh||Over 60||20-25|
|Sonkhaliya, Rajasthan||Over 80||20-25|
Sources: Prerna Singh Bindra, The Pioneer; Asad R. Rahmani, IUCN Bustard Specialist Group Chairman and Bombay Natural History Society Director
 Desert National Park - the bird's largest refuge
The Desert National Park, in Thar Desert, Rajasthan, is this bird’s best bet and probably its last refuge, with about 100 Bustards existing there (though the official census counts about 200; this number though, according to experts, is a gross exaggeration).
But even here it faces many threats. There is immense political pressure to denotify the park, open it for mining and grazing, and other development activities. Even within the park, there is hardly any restriction on grazing. The only restricted areas are the enclosures in the park, the best conserved of which is Sudasari, which has about 20 bustards. The cattle guards employed by the forest department have a tough duty, working round-the-clock to protect this meagre 20 sq km of grassland from over-grazing. The Great Indian Bustard population has halved since the 1980s, and the forest department is ill-equipped to arrest this decline and conserve the population. There is a paucity of resources. Rajasthan is yet to get the annual allocation of funds for wildlife management in parks and sanctuaries from the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2007, so the Desert National Park is facing a funds crunch. The best vehicle to monitor the park is the camel, but there are just three carts — and not all of these are functional at most times — to monitor an area of over 3,000 sq km. There are just two vehicles for the park, and little money for fuel; the department is woefully understaffed.
 Need for Project Bustard
Conservationists have been asking for a Project Bustard on the lines of Project Tiger, which focusses its attention on the species and aims to conserve all four species of the bustard and its habitat. Bustards can be considered as the umbrella species of the grassland ecosystems. By conserving them and their habitats, a very large number of species of the Indian grasslands can be protected.
 90 degrees
The situation has been made worse by the advent of the Indira Gandhi Canal Project, which has played havoc with the unique ecology of the region. It has opened up huge areas of the western Thar to colonisation and the canal’s ecological, demographic and sociological impact is ruining the desert ecosystem. Nomadic graziers — who roamed according to rain cycles and fodder availability — have now settled here, putting immense livestock and human pressure on the park. Moreover, a passage through the park has been thrown open to facilitate movement of heavy equipment for oil exploration.
- Between 1950 to 1979, Great Indian bustards were restricted to Kutch, Rajkot , Surendranagar, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar districts of Gujarat, India.
- In 1980, Bustards were sighted in Velavadar National Park, Bhavnagar.
- By end of the '80s, only a handful of birds were recorded in Surendranagar and Rajkot.
- In Jamnagar, it was last sighted in 1986 at Ghoghera Talab and Kalyanpur taluka.
- By the end of the '90s, the bird was found only in Kutch. 
The great Indian bustard, believed to be on the verge of extinction, registered a rise by 20 birds, according to a study conducted by Gujarat Ecological Education Research. Majority of them are females, which is a more encouraging sign. In 1998, only 29 birds were found in the State. The bustard population is spread over a 996.4 sq km area Abdasa and Nalia taluka of Kutch district in Gujarat. 
- Prerna Singh Bindra, The Pioneer
- Asad R. Rahmani, IUCN Bustard Specialist Group Chairman and Bombay Natural History Society Director