The forest department has issued a warning to photographers and has threatened legal action against any lensman found disturbing the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards as they breed between April and October in Kutchs Naliya grasslands.
The Great Indian Bustards breeding season attracts hosts of wildlife photographers eager to click pictures,the courtship display of male birds.
Each mating season,the male birds head out to slightly elevated grounds with sparse vegetation no more than 25 cm tall so that females can have a good look at them. There,they ruffle their fine,white breast feathers and call out,waiting to be chosen.
Once they are,pairs head into denser,taller grass areas to breed,females preferring grass that reach up to a metre in height to lay a single egg,rarely two,on the ground next to a patch of grass.
Various estimates peg the birds population in the grasslands as between 20 to 40,with just half at an age to breed. Global populations of the species is estimated at just 350-odd breeding pairs.
This office issues a caution to the over-enthusiastic and unethical photographers to restrict their movements near the sanctuary areas,breeding and nesting grounds,displaying males so that birds are not disturbed during their breeding season (April-October), said the warning issued by P A Vihol,Deputy Conservator of Forests,Kutch West.
Any person observed to disturb the species during their breeding,nesting by the forest department,shall be persecuted under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, it added.
Bharat Jethva,a wildlife activist,said he has in the past seen photographers approaching within 20 metres of displaying males which,although does not disturb males,scares away females. He said local villagers also often make side incomes by guiding photographers to such spots as well as nests.
The Union Environment Ministrys 2011 Guidelines for the Great Indian Bustard Recovery Programme also states,Unethical photography during the breeding season often acts as a constant source of disturbance; such instances have been reported from Naliya grasslands (Gujarat)…. Such direct threats on Great Indian Bustard population continues unrestricted.