By Anil Kumar Nair
The critically endangered great Indian bustard (GIB) in Jaisalmer is distributed along the Pokhran Field Firing Range (PFFR) and the Desert National Park (DNP). While DNP is a protected area, the PFFR, though being a restricted area, does not have the protection for wildlife like DNP. In the entire country today, these are the only two breeding populations of the GIB remaining in the wild, a species believed to be fewer than 100 individuals now.
The GIB population in the PFFR area moves around the large grassland tracts surrounding the firing range, and it being a restricted area, people’s movement is not allowed, causing lack of information on the presence and movement patterns of the GIBs. Having such a large tract of grasslands has also helped the herder community in this area to maintain a large population of livestock. During our field visits, we met one such herder, Mr. Karn Singh Bhati, who lives near the PFFR area in Nath ji ka Tanka, a hamlet of Loharki village, owns a herd of sheep and goats. He frequently visits the surrounding grassland areas with his livestock for grazing that are otherwise restricted for common people’s movement. While herding his livestock, he comes across many wildlife species including the GIB.
Karn leaves his house by 7 in the morning with livestock and comes back by 7 in the evening. He provides information on the presence and movement of GIBs and other wildlife from the area and maintains a notebook register of his daily sightings. As he is illiterate, at home, his sister Karuna Kanwar studying in class 9 at Government Girls’ School, Chayand, does the daily entries in the register for him.
Karn’s is an example of motivation for others. Initially he used to inform only about the presence or the movement of GIBs from the area. With constant interaction with our project team members every month, he started watching new species from the area. He reports to the team on his daily sightings on phone, and with his growing interest in wildlife, he now tries to take pictures on his mobile phone. Under the guidance of our team member, Pawan Sharma, he now watches YouTube videos available in local dialect for identification of wildlife species in the area, and has started documenting the raptor sightings such as the steppe eagle. To encourage his enthusiasm and as a token of gratitude to the voluntary efforts from him and his sister, we are supporting them with utility materials such as mobile recharge, notebooks, water bottles and medicines for his livestock.
Together, this team of two generations is helping us in conserving the critically endangered population of GIBs in Jaisalmer district.
Water bottle School copies
Data of Karn Singh from August 20
Recent sighting of four GIBs near Nath ji ka Tanka