Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps – GIB in short), a critically endangered Indian endemic bird on the verge of extinction, is showing signs of recovery in Bellary district. Two birds were recently sighted foraging in an agricultural field by seventeen-year-old budding naturalist Preeth Khona, in Chelugurki village 20 kms from Bellary and 60 Kms south of Sirguppa, where it was earlier rediscovered in 2006 by the author. Preeth Khona, Shruthi Punyamurthy and Sunaina Martin are budding naturalists and members of the search team led by naturalists from Bellary, Santosh Martin and Samad Kottur, who have been documenting and researching these birds since 2006.
This team had earlier combed Chelugurki village and had interacted with the villagers in search of Great Indian Bustards and Caracals (a desert and semi-arid cat species). GIBs were last sighted in Chelugurki village 10 years ago by Mr. Vijay Mohan Raj, IFS, currently park director, BRT Tiger Reserve. After that, several searches did not yield any results. But to their delight, these birds were sighted, not when they were on a search mission, but when Preeth Khona was traveling from Bellary to Bangalore in a car, almost by the side of the road. Most of the scrubland in and around Chelugurki village is under agriculture now squeezing the GIBs habitat, as they need large tracks of scrubland to forage and to nest. This second site finding in Bellary district after Sirguppa (60 Kms from each other) brings cheer among the naturalists in Bellary and a hope that these birds are breeding well.
These birds migrate locally between the blackbuck grassland habitats of Rollapadu and Adoni in Andhra Pradesh and Sirguppa, Chelugurki, Koppal, Gadag and Rannebennur in Karnataka. Ranebennur Bustard sanctuary does not have any GIB sightings in the last 15 years. Karnataka has a good breeding population of GIBS and their conservation has to be taken up by the govt on priority.
CI will bring out a longer article on the state of the bustard in Karnataka.