New Delhi: India is launching a recovery programme for Great Indian Bustard, one of the largest flying bird species, which is on the brink of extinction.
The Environment Ministry has issued guidelines based on the recommendations of a task force, constituted in 2010 with a mandate to look into the issue of conservation of bustards, to enable state governments to prepare site-specific action plans for recovery of the birds, once seen throughout the western half of India.
Financial assistance will be given to the states for conservation of bustard, whose population is estimated at less than 250 individuals scattered across the grasslands of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Last year, the Great Indian Bustard was uplisted to `Critically Endangered` -- the highest level of threat-- by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to the IUCN, hunting, disturbance, 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," the IUCN says.
Despite the built to survive harsh weather conditions, bustards have been exterminated from almost 90 per cent of their former range owing to loss of habitat and poaching, WWF-India says.
The grasslands which bustards inhabit have been converted into agricultural land and many have been opened up, to construct roads, resulting in fragmentation. The birds are still hunted for sport and meat though they are protected under Indian law.