Archived 2010-2011 topics: Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps): uplist to Critically Endangered?

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Great Indian Bustard

Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps is currently listed as Endangered under criterion C2a(ii) because it was thought to have a population of 250-999 individuals, which is suspected to be declining (at an estimated rate of 20-29% over 10 years) on the basis of past observed declines and ongoing threats, primarily hunting pressure in some areas and the conversion of grassland habitats to cultivation and pasture, accompanied by other factors such as increased pesticide usage and disturbance.

This species’s population has declined from an estimated 1,260 individuals in 1969 (Dharmakumarsinhji 1971 in Dutta et al. 2010) to c.300 individuals in 2008 (Dutta et al. 2010). A calculation of the rate of decline over three generations (47 years) using these data, and assuming an exponential trend, suggests that the species has declined at a rate equivalent to c.82% over 47 years. This indicates that the species may be eligible for Critically Endangered under the A criterion.

Given the latest estimate for the number of individuals of this species, it is possible that the population includes fewer than 250 mature individuals. If this were found to be the case, the species could qualify for Critically Endangered under criterion C1, on the basis that it is also undergoing a continued decline of at least 25% over 16 years (one generation).

Population viability analysis carried out by Dutta et al. (2010) suggests that the remaining sub-populations are very susceptible to the harvesting of adult birds, and that present levels of off-take are unsustainable. Dutta et al. (2010) also point out that threats posed by infrastructure development, such as collisions with road vehicles and powerlines, exacerbate the situation.

It is proposed that the species be uplisted to Critically Endangered under criteria A2a, A3c,d, A4a,c,d on the basis that a decline of at least 80% has occurred over the last three generations and is projected to continue owing to continued hunting pressure and ongoing habitat loss and degradation. Comments on this proposed uplisting would be welcomed, and further information is sought, particularly on the number of mature individuals in the population.

Dutta, S., Rahmani, A. R. and Jhala, Y. V. (2010) Running out of time? The great Indian bustard Ardeotis nigriceps – status, viability, and conservation strategies. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. Published online: 24 November 2010.

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15 Responses to Archived 2010-2011 topics: Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps): uplist to Critically Endangered?

  1. Pramod Patil says:

    Some Data on Adult population, breeding and threats to Great Indian Bustard at Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India

    1) Adult population has drastically declined in Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra State.
    Census count ( 2009) is 21 ( 6 male bustards and 15 female bustards)
    Census count (2010) is just 9 (2 male bustards and 7 female bustards)
    (source : Census record, Forest department, Wildlife division, Pune, Government of Maharashtra. 2009,2010)

    2) Hunting could be still prevalent in sanctuary area in Maharashtra State, as local people are in hardship and openly admit that they can kill bustards.(Source : information obtained from extensive field surveys during 2008-09 in Bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra)

    3) No record of egg, Hatching female, bustard Chick in last three years in favorite and only breeding spots in bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra.
    sighting of 1 chick with a mother was common before 2007. (Source : Forest department, Wildlife division, Pune, Government of Maharashtra.)

    4) Increased density of high tension electric wires in bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra has increased chances of bustards collisions and subsequent deaths of adults
    ( such deaths have been reported twice in past few years with death of 3 adult bustards (Source : Forest department, Wildlife division, Pune, Government of Maharashtra.))

    5) In Pakistan during the 2001–04, a total of 63
    birds entered the Cholistan desert, and 49 were killed and
    sold in the market. (Aleem Ahmed Khan et. al. CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 95, NO. 8, 25 OCTOBER 2008 )

    6) The situation has become grave with the development
    of Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (IGNP) in Rajasthan, India.
    This is resulting in the alteration of the natural habitat
    of these birds in the western part of the Thar desert,
    hence forcing them to move to the natural habitat in Pakistan.
    Its naturally low productivity and high longevity are
    factors that further exacerbate the impact of hunting.(Aleem Ahmed Khan et. al. CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 95, NO. 8, 25 OCTOBER 2008 )

    In this current situation there is immense need to upgrade Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps to Critically Endangered.

  2. Pramod Patil says:

    1) Population data of Great Indian Bustard in Bustard Sanctuary Maharashtra state , India.
    this indicates despite of having Protected area population is declining at an tremendaous rate.

    The Range Wise Estimated numbers of GIB, 1989 To 2010

    Sr. No. Year Number of Bustards(Range)
    (A) (B) (C) Total population in PA
    1 1989 9 12 40 61
    2 1990 10 8 27 45
    3 1991 8 10 35 53
    4 1992 7 11 40 58
    5 1993 9 10 24 43
    6 1994 9 12 37 58
    7 1995 8 13 22 43
    8 1996 11 14 19 44
    9 1997 9 5 19 33
    10 1998 8 7 15 30
    11 1999 3 4 21 28
    12 2000 2 3 12 17
    13 2001 1 2 12 15
    14 2002 0 0 22 22
    15 2003 0 0 14 14
    16 2004 0 0 16 16
    17 2005 0 0 22 22
    18 2006 0 0 27 27
    19 2007 0 0 30 30
    20 2008 0 0 24 24
    21 2009 0 0 21 21
    22 2010 0 0 9 9

    (A) : GIB in Rehekuri Range of bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra, India
    (B) : GIB in Karmala Range of bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra, India
    (C) : GIB in Solapur Range of bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra, India

    2) Great Indian Bustard is dependent on traditional crop plants for food. In bustard lanscape due to increse in irrigation canals the agriculture pattern is changing from bustard friendly traditional food crops to cash crops such as Graes and sugarcane. specially the core breding area is going to be disturbed and altered due to one irrigation canal going close to core breeding area in bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra state. ( Source : our field surveys in bustard sanctuary).

    3) During last couple of years use of pesticides is increased in bustard dominated landcape in Maharashtra state.( Source : our field surveys in bustard sanctuary). study of its impact on Bustards breeding and health has not been done.

    Situation of Great Indian Bustard is really worst.
    declaring it as critically Endangered will put pressure on government to support “Project Bustards”

  3. Pramod Patil says:

    Dogs : Serious threat to breeding of Great Indian Bustards.

    We observed pattern and incidents of disturbances to breeding of Great Indian Bustards because of dogs at Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra State.
    1) Direct disturbance :
    It has been observed that Dog gets attracted to displaying Alpha male Bustard and chases it for few meters.
    On several occasions displaying alpha male as well as foraging bustards in the vicinity took a flight and settled at far distance.
    Alpha male did not resumed Display on all such occasions.
    Year wise total incidents of direct disturbance to display and foraging are ( as observed only in month of August )-
    Aug 2005 – 6 Occasions
    Aug 2006- 6 Occasions
    Aug 2007 – 8 Occasions
    Aug 2008- 7 Occasions
    Aug 2009- 11 Occasions
    Aug 2010- 10 Occasions
    Dog population and incidences of disturbances to display and breeding are on the rise in all the Bustard areas.
    All the bustard areas are surrounded by villages which are constant source of dogs which disturb bustards during breeding season.

    2) Indirect Disturbance –
    On several occasions dogs have been observed to chase Blackbuck. Disturbed and frightened herd inturn disturbs the foraging bustards, mother and chick, displaying alpha male.
    Egg trampling has been reported in the past ( Rahmani 1989). with increases in dog population there is increase in overall disturbance to bustards with special respect to it’s breeding.
    currently there is no control on dog population. Failure of breeding has lead to drastic collapse in population in Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra and everywhere else in India.
    situation is deteriorating every year.

  4. Pramod Patil says:

    Direct and indirect threats to Great Indian Bustard identified in various bustard areas in India.

    A) Direct threats to adults ( In bracket are the state with high risks
    identified or observed)
    1) Poaching (Gujrat , Rajasthan and Pakistan)
    2) Collisions with high tension electric wires ( Gujrat and
    3) Pesticide ( All States)

    B) Direct threats to breeding
    1) Egg collection ( Karnataka, AndhraPradesh)
    2) Eggs in private farmlands ( Karnataka, Andhrapradesh,
    Maharashtra )
    3) Pesticide (All states)
    4) Lack of protection to core breeding areas (All states)
    5) Failure of TCM ( trench cum mound) and lack of new protective
    measure ( Maharashtra)
    6) Increased movement of people (Maharashtra, Gujrat)
    7) Increased Blackbuck and cattle population – egg trampling
    ( Maharashtra, AndhraPradesh)

    C) Indirect threats to breeding
    1) Dog menace ( Maharashtra, Gujrat)
    2) Lack of serious enforcement of legislation ( All states)
    3) Encroachment ( All States)
    4) Unethical photography ( Gujrat)
    5) Improper land use policy ( All States)
    6) Mining ( All States)
    7) Power projects ( All States)
    8 ) Stone quarrying ( All States)

    D) Others
    1) Rapid decline of population (All States)
    2) Absence of captive breeding population

  5. Pramod Patil says:

    Great Indian Bustard – DATA DEFICIENT – Much more study needed

    Following information and studies are lacking on Great Indian Bustard.
    Future conservation can be made possible through proper reaserch on various vital aspects of Great Indian Bustard.

    A) Lack of ecological studies

    1) Seasonal movement
    2) Role of undisturbed grassland on the breeding success
    3) Role and impact of traditional farmlands as breeding habitat
    4) Impact of Blackbuck, Wolf and Indian Fox on breeding success
    5) Documentation of grassland biodiversity

    B) Lack of demographic studies

    1) Status
    2) Range of distribution
    3) Population dynamics
    4) Lack of standardised census method for different season

    C) Lack of conservation related studies

    1) Pesticide studies
    a) Impact of pesticide on food of bustards
    b) Impact of pesticide on breeding success
    C) Benefits and economics of organic farming versus chemical
    2) Direct and indirect benefits to rural people.
    3) Poverty alleviation by bustard conservation and consequent
    improvement of grassland resources
    4) Landscape approach of conservation keeping bustard as a flagship

    D) Lack of habitat management studies

    1) Impact of Grazing and Optimum grazing regimen
    2) Impact of rotational and seasonal grazing
    3) Impact of burning on grassland health
    4) Habitat interrelationships
    5) Seasonal changes in habitat
    6) Identification of more suitable areas for future conservation.

    E) Others
    1) Popular literature
    2) Documentation of traditional knowledge.

  6. Pramod Patil says:


    A) Habitat loss

    1) Spread of agriculture
    2) Encroachment
    3) Land use changes in land use practices
    4) Mining
    5) Power projects
    6) Road expansion
    7) Stone quarrying

    B) Habitat alteration

    I) Grassland issues
    Impact of climate change ( +ve or –ve)

    a) Protected grasslands

    1) Aforestation on potential habitat
    2) Inappropriate grassland management and failure of implementation of recommendations.
    3) Lack of knowledge on habitat management in managers
    4) Road expansion

    b) Non protected grasslands Overgrazing
    – 1) by local livestock
    -2) by nomadic( Kathiawadi ) livestock

    II) Farmland issues
    1) Change in crop pattern
    2) Irrigation canals

  7. Pramod Patil says:


    1) Lack of political will
    2) Ignorance of ‘settlements of rights’ by state government
    3) Lack of land use policy
    4) Lack of national grazing and grassland policies
    5) Lack of clear policy for tenurial rights to resident and nomadic pastoral communities.
    6) Lack of funds
    7) CAMPA fund (Afforestation in grasslands)
    8 ) Lack of appreciation of grassland ecosystems while developing a policy ( grasslands considered as wastelands )

    1) Lack of adaptive grassland management
    2) Lack of motivation, interest and bustard conservation attitude
    3) Confused land records between Revenue and Forest department
    4) Failure of institutional processes
    5) Failure of role identification by animal husbandry department and agricultural department
    6) Inappropriate inter-departmental coordination
    7) Lack of cooperation among the states sharing bustard population
    8 ) Lack of Accountability and responsibility.
    9) Lack of authority to supervise follow up on the recommendations of scientific studies
    10) Lack of communication between forest department and local community
    11) Shift of interested person to other departments
    12) No management of surplus industrial/ defence /airport lands
    13) Lack of publicity and awareness within the forest department
    14) Lack of knowledge about the grassland ecology and habitat management by managers ( Forest department)
    15) Lack of administrative infrastructure, advance technology and equipments
    16) Inappropriate conservation incentive schemes by the Forest
    17) Less research-attention
    18) Less number of bustard watchmen

  8. Pramod Patil says:


    1) Lack of local support
    2) Lack of awareness in local community
    3) Lack of grass-resource use for fodder etc. by forest department in
    their lands.
    4) Lack of sustainable use of community grasslands
    5) Lack of participatory conservation-approach (e.g. Joint forest
    6) Lack of landscape level conservation (community reserves) planning

  9. Pramod Patil says:


    Two cases of bustard deaths due to collisions with electric lines

    1) Year 2002
    Place : Karmala core area of bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra State.
    In 2002 one Male Great Indian Bustard was found dead. body was
    attached to electric line.
    This was the only breeding alpha male of the area.
    after this death since 2002 no bustard has been sighted in Karmala
    core area.
    2) Year 2000
    Place : Indapur, Solapur district of Maharashtra State, India.
    one bustard was found dead because of collision with electric line.
    The sex was unidentified.

    With increase in density of electric lines and high tension wires.
    the landscape is changing at a faster rate and it is measure emerging threat to bustards.
    With population of just 30-35 ( Maharashtra State) , It is of great importance to strengthen the conservation efforts.
    Uplisting Great Indian Bustard to Critically endangered is one important aspect of it’s conservation and will provide support to ongoing conservation activities.

  10. Pramod Patil says:

    Habitat restoration : Brings Great Indian Bustards back to place.

    1) Many good grasslands which were core breeding areas for endangered Great Indian Bustard are now converted into woodlands due to plantation of exotics like glyricidia and eucalyptus . These are not suitable for bustards as they need open grasslands for breeding, foraging and roosting purposes.

    2) In Ranibennur sanctuary, Karnataka, all the bustards got extinct because of massive habitat alterations thanks to large scale exotic plantations of Eucalyptus.

    3) In bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra, many core breeding areas were turned into woodlands. we repeatedly emphasized on habitat restoration.

    4) In 2007, after our emphasis, uprooting of trees from 25 hectare bustard land was done on an experimental basis. we continuously monitored and observed the area afterwards. In 2009 we observed one male Great Indian Bustard and 16 species of grassland birds in the same area. bustard spent 2 hours foraging in that area. This proves that proper habitat restoration is immediately needed to secure bustard population.
    specially all core breeding areas needs to be restored in similar way.

    ( Ref : Pramod Patil , Recent Habitat Management at Great Indian Bustard (GIB) Sanctuary Solapur Maharashtra : A welcome sign for bustard
    MISTNET Vol 11, No. 1 Jan-March, 2010)

  11. Pramod Patil says:

    Disappearance of Great Indian Bustard from three protected areas

    1) State : Rajasthan
    Name of Protected area Sorson
    Size : 40 sq km
    Major reasons and threats to bustards and habitat
    1) Administrative neglect
    2) Agricultural expansion
    3) Resentment of villages due to crop damage by Blacbuck.
    2) State : Madhya Pradesh
    Name of Protected area : Karera
    Size : 202 sq km
    Major reasons and threats to bustards and habitat
    1) Overgrazing
    2) Expansion of agriculture
    3) Growing resentment of villages due to crop damage by Blackbuck
    4) Completely ignoring scientific advice on the management of the
    3) State : Karnataka
    Name of Protected area : Ranibennur
    Size : 123 sq km
    Major reasons and threats to bustards and habitat
    1) Overgrazing
    2) Disturbance
    3) Habitat alterations and modifications

    Ref : Rahmani, A R ( 2006) Need to start Project Bustards. BNHS, Mumbai, India

  12. Pramod Patil says:

    Great Indian Bustard in Karnataka :

    Karnataka is one of the six states of India where the bustard is still seen (Ali & Rahmani 1982-84, Rahmani and Manakadan 1985, Rahmani 1987). The Great Indian Bustard was once widely distributed in most of the open scrub forests and grasslands of Karnataka all along itsdrier strip of eastern portions extending from north to south( Neginhal S. G. ).General Douglas Hamilton (1892), General Richard Hamilton, G. P Sanderson(1882), Lt. Fenton(1884) have mentioned occurance of bustards in various parts f Karnataka(Neginhal S G 1981). The Bombay Gazetteer fro belgaum District (1884) mentions the Indian Bustard as occurring in the east in Parasagad. There were reports from Bijapur, Raichur, Belgaon, Gulbarga, Dharwad, Bellary, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Hassan, Kolar and Mysore districts.

    But today bustard is extinct from more than 90 percent of its former range in Karnataka and is now definitely known to exist from Bellary and Koppal districts. Koppal is contiguous to Ranibennur Blackbuck sanctuary. Shri T N A Perumal has photographed Great Indian Bustard from agricultural field of Hagedal in 1975(Neginhal S G 1981).The area between Siruguppa in Bellary district and Adoni in Karnool district appeared to be a potential area, because the region has contiguous plains of grassland in black cotton soil. Great Indian Buatards are found in Rollapadu blackbuck sanctuary which is contiguous to Siruguppa area.
    First recent sighting of four birds was on 12-5-2006 in morning (Samad K S A, 2006). One adult male, one adult female and two juvenile males.Mother and 6-7 months old chick in July 2008

    Population :

    Around 1989 total population for Karnataka state was to 30-40. It included Dharwad, Tumkur, Bijapur(?), Raichur(?), Mandhya(?)(Rahmani A R 1989).
    There is some literature regarding former status of Bustards in Karnataka. The Bustard appears to have been sparingly according to Ali, S 1934. Mc Master, A C (1868) and Butler, E A (1881) also provided some information ( Rahmani A R 1989). The bustard is no longer present in its former range but still survives in very small pockets in State.

    Current Population in Karnataka
    Karnataka, where the population status is poorly known, but few birds (2–4) have recently been reported from Sirguppa tehsil of Bellary district (Samad K S A 2006), (Ahiraj 2008).

    Recent population data of Bustards from Bellary ( Sirguppa Tehsil ) (Samad K S A, 2006) :

    1) May,July 2006 – Group of five birds.
    2) July 2008 – Mother with 7-8 months old Chick.
    3) June 2009- Female and Chick
    4) November 2010- Female near Village Muruni.

    GIB census and details of population in past :-
    1981 – 10 GIB
    1982 – 7 GIB
    1983 – 9 GIB
    1984 – 8 GIB
    1985 – 7 GIB
    1986 – 5 GIB
    1987 – 6 GIB
    1989 – 9 GIB
    1990 – 14 GIB
    1991 – 10 GIB
    1992 – 9 GIB
    1993 – 7 GIB
    1994 – 9 GIB
    1995 – 7 GIB
    1996 – 8 GIB
    1997 – 6 GIB
    1998 – 2 GIB
    1999 – 0 GIB
    Great Indian Bustard sighting graph shows they were residing and breeding in the sanctuary till 1998.

    (Source : Karnataka Forest Department, India )

    Details disappearance of bustards from Ranibennur Sanctuary:

    1) In over enthusiastically the sanctuary area has been protected by controlling the cutting of shrubs and bushes.

    2) The afforestation work taken up from 1958 onwards in the total area except few patches, by planting with eucalyptus hybrid species, which grown very fast and covered the area totally.

    3) Even in the area of the few patches left for Great Indian Bustards habitat, due to protection the weeds like Dodonia viscosa and scrub species like acacia chundra were grown more than 3 m height.

    4) The adjacent agriculture area which was also a part of habitat area of Great Indian Bustard was brought under the different agriculture crop pattern by growing the different crops.
    (ie., earlier the crops were, Horse grain, ground nut, Navane (Kannada name) etc., which are low height crops (less than 0.5 m), now the crops are Sunflower, Hybrid maize etc., which are more than 1.25 m tall).

    With this, the Birds lost the habitat and the result of this, the birds number is declined and finally in 1999 it is disappeared.

    Conservation Problems in Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary :

    1) The original habitat of Great Indian Bustard is completely destroyed.
    Most of the grasslands are converted to vegetative area both in Forest area and as well as Arable land, adjacent to the sanctuary.

    2) Mainly the land adjacent to the sanctuary area was the grassland is now brought under cultivation.

    3) The main crop cultivation was like Horse grain, local thor gram, ground nut (which was mainly low height crops) and now the present crop cultivation species are like maize, sun flower etc., all main crops which is more taller than 1.25 m. which are non suitable for Great Indian Bustards

    With effective habitat management and protection to breeding sites along with captive or conservation breeding bustards can be brought back to Ranebennur Sanctuary, once considered as heaven for bustards.

  13. Pramod Patil says:

    Great Indian Bustard : Conservation issues in Naliya, Abdasa
    (State : Gujrat, India)

    Great Indian Bustard population in Gujarat is much threatened due following reasons.
    There is unauthorized distribution and acquisition of bustards prime habitat. Huge belts of grasslands have been acquired unauthorized by local farmers and farmers from other states.(Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab states).
    all the suitable grasslands have been converted into agriculture. main crop is Cotton which grows to the height of 5-6 feet is not at all suitable for bustard.
    their is rampant use of pesticides on Cotton. which is greater threat for bustards who occasionally feed on pests in the crop.
    there is increased movement of people for the purpose of agriculture and livestock grazing. so whole landscape is much disturbed throughout the breeding season. Kunathiya in Naliya is one of the important grassland for bustards. but most of the habitat around Kunathiya is altered due to unauthorized farming. all the crop is irrigated with ground water.

    In this current scenario there is very little hope for Great Indian Bustard Conservation in the Gujrat state. with state count of only 30-35 individuals uplisting Great Indian Bustard is extremely necessary for future survival of the Species.

  14. Pramod Patil says:

    Karera Bustard Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh, India) Lost all its Bustards and now waiting for Denotification : Significance of uplisting the species in its conservation.

    During the time of 1983-1984 Great Indian Bustard flourished in Karera Sanctuary and total maximum count was near about 32 individuals.

    But during subsequent years due to massive land use changes and mismanagement of habitat by forest department all the population collapsed within few years.
    Hailstorm of 1987 was a sever blow to population with death of many young birds. Subsequently all adult population gone extinct and last bird was sighted in 1993

    Main reason for local extinction of bustard in Karera is that 90 percent of land in the sanctuary is private land with no control on it . It has changed to croplands due to increase in population and subsequent biotic pressure on grasslands. This change in most of habitat was non suitable for bustards.

    Secondly forest land was not managed properly along with lack of traditional practices open grasslands were converted into thick scrublands which are not suitable for bustards.

    Due to strict restriction on livelihood practices local people were suffering from hardship.
    There is no support to bustard conservation in Madhya Pradesh state and people are against bustards.

    Finally under pressure of local community state government submitted proposal for complete denotification of Karera Bustard Sanctuary. It is approved by Madhya Pradesh State Wildlife Board and also by National Board for Wildlife, (MoEF, New Delhi).
    Denotification of Karera Bustard Sanctuary will certainly help local people for their development and growth. But will severely hamper bustard conservation in the state.
    Not only this but it will also set an example for other bustard areas in India where bustard population can be made extinct to get the area denotified. This is severe threat to bustards in India and it will guide people from other bustard areas to kill all bustards and get the denotification.

    Declaring Great Indian Bustard as critically endangered will certainly exert pressure on government to become more serious for the conservation species otherwise further denotification of other bustard sanctuaries will lead to immediate extinction species.

    This is the last chance to save Great Indian Bustard and hence uplisting it to Critically Endangered category is of great significance and much needed to save these rare birds.

  15. Pramod Patil says:

    Uplisting Great Indian Bustard to Critically Endangered

    It is of great significance for conservation of species.
    It will gather attention of every Stakeholder on its conservation.
    It will create Great impact on Policy makers to take the Bustard Conservation seriously.
    This is mile stone step in the History of Bustard conservation in India.

    – Pramod Patil

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