European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 615–625 | Cite as

Running out of time? The great Indian bustard Ardeotis nigriceps—status, viability, and conservation strategies

  • Sutirtha Dutta
  • Asad R. Rahmani
  • Yadvendradev V. Jhala
Original Paper


The endemic great Indian bustard (GIB) is evolutionarily trapped between open nesting and k-selection that endangers its persistence under prevailing levels of habitat loss and hunting. A global population of about 300 birds is further fragmented into eight populations in the states of Rajasthan (shared with Pakistan), Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh in India. The largest population of 100–125 birds exists in Jaisalmer, Barmer, and Bikaner districts of Rajasthan. Remaining populations number less than 35 birds each. Prevalent GIB conservation strategies use legislation to (a) secure traditional breeding areas by declaring small Protected Areas (PA) or (b) protect vast areas with varied human land uses. The vagrant nature of GIB reduces the benevolent effect of small PAs, while large reserves alienate people by curbing legitimate subsistence rights through strict legislation. These factors along with ill-informed habitat management challenge the current PA approach, even causing local extinctions. Population viability analysis shows that GIB populations of ≤35 birds can persist only under unrealistic conditions of first year mortality ≤40%, and no human caused mortality of adult birds. Even the largest population (≥100 birds) is sensitive to additional loss of adult birds to human causes. With current levels of hunting in Pakistan, extinction is a real threat. A landscape conservation strategy using conservation/community reserve concept that includes controlled traditional land uses with GIB-friendly infrastructural development is needed. The declining rate of GIB populations calls for immediate commencement of ex situ conservation breeding programs.


Endangered Environmental stochasticity Ex situ conservation Grassland Poaching Population viability analysis 



Field work for this research was funded from the ongoing project “Research and Conservation of Endangered and Threatened Fauna of Kachchh” of Wildlife Institute of India. We are grateful to the Director and Dean of Wildlife Institute of India and Gujarat Forest Department especially Kutch circle for logistic support. We acknowledge D.K. Sharma, Bopanna, and Kamlesh for their help during field work, and Kausik, Rekha, Santanu, and Parabita for their help in drafting the manuscript. Negi, Isaaque, Shankar, Lakhma, Dev, and Rekha are thanked for their sincere field assistance. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10344_2010_472_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (175 kb)
Appendix S1 (PDF 174 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sutirtha Dutta
    • 1
  • Asad R. Rahmani
    • 2
  • Yadvendradev V. Jhala
    • 1
  1. 1.Wildlife Institute of IndiaDehradunIndia
  2. 2.Bombay Natural History SocietyMumbaiIndia

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