The great Indian bustard (GIB) is a ‘Critically Endangered’ species under the IUCN Red List, and 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 the critically endangered GIB, 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 source of 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 to 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 3,100 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 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 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 – 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.
The villagers informed us about high mortality in summers, less production and very high cost of veterinary services during any emergency in their locality. The residents are not aware about the improvement of the breed to have good quality 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 nondescript and have a large unproductive population. Poor management practices, scarcity of fodder, lack of veterinary services, water scarcity are the 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, we at WCS-India decided to provide veterinary services on a regular basis to the rural population situated around the DNP in maintaining 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, and to make them partners in our GIB conservation programme.
Villages & Hamlets
Animals treated in the camp
Balaniyo ki Dhani
Barna & Arjun Singh ki Dhani
Mangal Singh ki Dhani
The animals were treated for diarrhea, respiratory infections, mange infestations etc and ectoparasites. The pastorals were provided oral deworming medicines and treatments during the camp. The gaushalas operating in some of these villages were provided primary health care kits. The district animal husbandry department has been very cooperative and has been supporting the team in conducting the camps in villages.