Page 8 - Lesser Florican - Silent Decline from Historical Ranges
P. 8
Cover Story


I t was in the month of October in 2010, at Nagoya, Historical Roots
Japan, in the Convention of Biological Diversity
John Frederick (1759–1796), first described the
(CBD) in which countries adopted a strategic plan,
2011–2020 with 20, time-bound targets to halt the abundance of this bustard from Gujarat’s Kathiawar
extinction rate of different species by 2020, known as area during monsoon. According to him, they were so
‘Aichi Targets’. Lesser Florican or Sypheotides indicus common that they could be easily caught alive by the
(Endangered IUCN 2014) was also amongst those villagers. Almost after a century during British rule in
birds species that needed ‘intensive care’ under India in the 1870s their number started plummeting
‘Intensive Recovery Programme’ as it was observed to and it became visible. The reasons were obvious—
be declining at a greater pace owing to the loss of its hunting for sports and dining delights. Significantly,
habitat which are unfortunately fragile grasslands and most of the extinct Indian birds have been historically
are given negligible attention with a tag of ‘wasteland’. shot either for ‘hunting sport’ or for ‘dining delights’, that
The decline of lesser florican is so rapid that if remained is why the state bird of Rajasthan ‘Great Indian Bustard’
unchecked, this smallest virtually endemic bustard is ‘Critically Endangered’ today as per The International
of India would slide from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Critically Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Bharatpur
Endangered’ category very soon according to the latest Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan displays names of such
report of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, hunters who had shot thousands of birds for sports
submitted in June 2018. Though endemic to India, it in one day. Frank Finn (1915) in his book ‘Sporting &
is also reported from Pakistan and Nepal where it used Game birds of India’ reveals the truth. Lesser florican is
to be in abundance once, but today it is only a non- no different from other birds as in 1879 forest officials
breeding visitor there. There are reports of its sightings shot close to 30 birds in just one day near Malur Railway
as vagrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar as well. It is Station, Bangalore. Arab royals have also hunted great
listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Indian bustards, Hubara bustards, and lesser floricans
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and under the CMS till 1976 in Rajasthan. But subsequently, the Rajasthan
Convention. India is a signatory to both CITES and CMS Government imposed a strict ban on its hunting in 1983
Convention. and made it effective for 10 years.

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