|Great Indian bustard|
A recent study has shown that the great Indian bustard population is suffering from poor genetic diversity, and consists of a small population of breeding adults. This is an extremely terrible news for the scientists and researchers involved in the battle to save the bustard. The reason is because poor genetic diversity increases wild animals' vulnerability to extinction, especially when they are faced with catastrophic issues as they do not have the genetic strength to fight against their threats. A team of four scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) conducted a year-long study which was published in an international journal called Conservation Genetics early this year. Their findings showed that the birds have poor genetic diversity and even a low population size of effective females.
There are about 350 to 300 birds in six states, according to director of Great Indian Bustard Foundation Pramod Patil. And they are fighting a stiff battle for survival. He further added that habitat protection and captive breeding are a must in raising their numbers. This statement was backed by the scientists of WII. Suchitra Dutta, one of the researchers, told that the birds have very low life history traits. This means that although they have a long lifespan, they have a slow growth rate and can lay a less number of eggs. Farah Ishtiaq added, saying that continuous destruction of habitat will greatly affect the birds' survival. The team also compared the genetic variability of India's bustards to those in Europe and the Middle East. The results showed that the ones in India suffered a population bottleneck. It is believed that the distribution of fragmented habitat caused by agricultural development and disturbance by livestock grazing, along with restricted gene flow between populations may have contributed to low genetic diversity. In addition to that, experts have stated that satellite tracking techniques must be used in order to understand the birds' migration routes.
I very much feel that this article is a clear reminder about how and why the bustard population in India is facing a bleak future. The ongoing process of agriculture development and livestock grazing combined with illegal poaching has brought their numbers down to critical levels. Much of their habitat is fragmented as a result of these destructive issues. They have also interfered with their migration routes such that scientists and researchers are finding it difficult to understand their nomadic movements. I happen to agree with the experts, and hope that satellite tracking will help give a clear picture of how much of the birds' migration routes are affected. But at the same time, I personally feel that serious action must be taken regarding the threats of agriculture and poaching. The bustard population has plummeted from 1,260 birds in 1969 to 300 in 2010, and any further encroachment will keep pushing the current population to the brink of extinction. I had earlier heard that local villagers are becoming involved in the fight to save the birds, but there plenty of those who are not paying attention to what they are doing. These people should be taught about the threats the birds are facing, and educated about their ecological importance. Furthermore, it would really help if the villagers help the law enforcement by keeping vigil in reporting any poaching activities. That way, the bustard population will be saved.
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