The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is a ‘Critically Endangered’ species under the IUCN Red List. It has the highest resident breeding population in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan. It is believed that the total world population of the species in the wild is less than 100 individuals. The Thar landscape in western Rajasthan is home not only to this bustard but it also boasts the highest livestock population in Rajasthan, and some of the best quality sheep wool is collected from the region. Being an arid zone, the primary livelihood of the populations in this region is livestock rearing as traditionally it had very large tracts of grazing pasture lands for the community. With the advancement of modern technology and newer development initiatives, many of these traditional pasture lands are being converted for other commercial uses including agriculture, road networks, refineries, wind and solar power generation etc.
With the introduction of the Indira Gandhi Canal in the arid zone and the promotion of mechanised farming, many of these pasture lands are now being tilled for agriculture, thereby reducing the availability of fodder and grazing areas for the livestock. The Desert National Park (DNP) spread in an area of more than 3100 sq. km. was created to save the desert ecosystem and the GIB. Spread across two districts, the Protected Area (PA) is dotted with more than 80 settlements having high livestock populations. Being situated in one of the remotest areas and harsh terrains, availability of government services for the welfare and health of livestock in the region is very limited. Majority of the livestock interact with the wild ungulate population around the PA, always posing a threat of spreading disease to each other.
An initial survey done on the status of livestock in the villages around the DNP revealed that the management practices were quite poor for the livestock. The livestock is mostly dependent upon an open free-range grazing system, as no village Gochar or Oran is identified nor managed by village residents. The animals are mostly emaciated and weak due to heavy parasitic load of both ectoparasites and endoparasites. As no veterinary health centres are present in most of the villages, no routine vaccination, dosing, dusting and veterinary care is available for the livestock.
Villagers informed about high mortality in summers, less production and very high cost of veterinary services during any emergency in their locality. Residents are not aware of improvement of the breed to have good quality animals and removal of unproductive or less productive animals.
The proportion of non-descript (80%) cattle is very high in the area. The average milk production is quite low as most of the animals are non-descript and have large unproductive populations. Poor management practices, scarcity of fodder, lack of veterinary services and water scarcity are major causes of less production resulting in over-grazing on the grasslands of the DNP.
Keeping in view the conservation of the GIB and the welfare of the livestock, WCS India decided to provide veterinary services on a regular basis to the rural populations situated around the DNP to maintain the health of their livestock and improving and increasing the availability of fodder to reduce the grazing pressure on the PA and sustaining the livelihoods of the locals to make them partners in GIB conservation.
On the 16th of October, our GIB Conservation project team conducted a livestock health camp in the Jamda village. Jamda village under Gram Panchayat Sipla, situated in the DNP, is a cluster of 35 settlements belonging to the Rajput community. The health camp is a key project activity for gaining the belief of the village community.
The highlights of the camp activities are as follows:
- All the team members comprising the Project Associate, Sociologist, Veterinarian, Veterinarian Assistant, Conservation Assistant and Field Assistant were present in the health camp.
- The camp was set-up outside the Upper Primary School in the village from 8 am to 2 pm.
- There were a total of 27 farmers whose livestock was treated.
- 134 cows, 351 sheep, 182 goats, 10 buffaloes, 2 horses (a total of 679) were treated.
- The diseases that were mostly found were endoparasites and ectoparasites infestation, wounds, infertility, anoestrus, anorexia, pyrexia and diarrhoea.
- Farmers who were unable to bring their livestock to the camp were given oral deworming medicines for drenching with clear prescription.
To learn more about our Great Indian Bustard Program, please visit: https://india.wcs.org/Programs/Great-Indian-Bustard
The WCS-India Great Indian Bustard is supported by Rural India Supporting Trust ( RIST), click here to visit their website.