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Great Indian bustard conservation: Flap-like diverters installed on live wires to prevent collision

Collision with live high-tension wires is the prime reason for mortality among great Indian bustards, with as many as 15% of their deaths attributed to the cause

By - Priyanka Sahoo

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

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In a novel initiative to protect the critically endangered the great Indian bustard from colliding with live wires, the Wildlife Conservation Society- India (WCSI) is installing 1,848 bird diverters on high-tension wires along a 6.5km stretch in Pokhran, Rajasthan.

“Fire Fly” bird diverters are being installed as part of a pilot project over a selected stretch opposite the Pokhran Field Firing Range, which offers a safe habitat to a breeding population of great Indian bustards outside the Desert National Park (DNP) Sanctuary in Jaisalmer.

“When you see the diverters from a distance, they look like a string of fireflies perched on the wires. Basically, the diverter is a 6-inch-long and 4-inch-wide flap clamped on the wires and suspended in the air. These clamps rotate with the wind and are radio-painted. They are visible from around 50 metres away,” said Anil Kumar, associate, WCSI.

Collision with live high-tension wires is the prime reason for mortality among great Indian bustards, with as many as 15% of their deaths attributed to the cause, according to a report submitted to the National Green Tribunal by the wildlife division of the ministry of environment, forests and climate change.

Great Indian bustards are large birds with unique black caps over their heads and are found in the Indian subcontinent. They are the heaviest flying birds in the country and are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. There are around only 150 of them left in India, according to the report by the wildlife division.

Since great Indian bustards are heavy birds with limited frontal vision, they find it difficult to change their course of flight swiftly even if they spot a live wire, said Kapil Chandrawal, director, DNP.

Fire Fly diverters are the first such diverters to be installed in the country. Previously, spiral and large discs were used in limited areas to divert birds from live wires.

Chandrawal welcomed the project and said that it can become a case study for installing bird diverters to conserve the great Indian bustard population. “This kind of bird diverter has yielded good results, according to studies conducted by conservationists in many countries. We are looking forward to some data from this pilot project by WCSI. As for the adoption of these diverters in a large-scale manner, the matter is subjudice,” added Chandrawal.

Recently the Supreme Court of India, while hearing a plea on the matter, directed that power lines in the great Indian bustard landscape be made underground. Kumar said that Fire Fly diverters can be installed at almost one-fourth the cost of laying the power lines underground.

As the population of Great Indian bustards dwindles, the WCSI has partnered with the Rural India Support Trust (RIST), the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, and the Rajasthan Forest Department for this initiative. This is a part of its great Indian bustard conservation project.

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