Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012.
Lesser Florican Sypheotides indicus now breeds in a restricted and fragmented range mainly in north-west and south-central India, including Gujarat, south-eastern Rajasthan, north-western Maharshtra, western Madhya Pradesh, north-central Andhra Pradesh and southern Nepal (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005), but occurs more widely, with some dispersal into south-eastern India in the non-breeding season. It is currently listed as Endangered under criteria A3c,d; A4c,d, on the basis that it is projected to undergo a very rapid decline (50-79%) over the next ten years owing to the on-going loss of its grassland habitats, mainly through conversion to cultivation and pasture, as well as hunting pressure.
A survey conducted in August 2010 (coinciding with a peak in male displays) in north-western India (Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) (Bhardwaj et al. 2011), which followed methodology comparable to that of a survey in 1999 (Sankaran 2000), recorded a decline of 65% in the sightings of S. indicus since 1999. A total of 84 birds (including one female) were recorded during the 2010 survey, down from 238 in 1999. The species was recorded in only 24 of the 91 grasslands surveyed, compared to its presence in 37 grasslands in 1999 (Bhardwaj et al. 2011). Extrapolation of the apparent decline in this region between 1999 and 2010 suggests that it is equivalent to a decline of c.94% over the last three generations (1981-2012, based on an estimated generation length of c.10.3 years; BirdLife International unpubl. data).
Extrapolating so far into the past involves inherent uncertainties; however, the threats that have been impacting the species since 1999 have been prevalent since 1981 and before. The species is known to experience marked population fluctuations that are directly correlated with breeding season rainfall patterns, suggesting that it would be susceptible to a catastrophic decline during a severe and prolonged drought. This suggests that the 2010 survey results were affected by severe drought conditions that occurred in many parts of India in 2009, when the monsoon rains were delayed. It is unclear, however, whether the 2010 data indicate a genuine reduction in the population, or movement to other areas.
Information on recent population trends is requested from other parts of the species’s range to help in the assessment of the overall rate of decline. Further information is also requested on the total number of mature individuals in the population, as well as the species’s sub-population structure, i.e. whether all mature individuals form one sub-population or, if not, the number of mature individuals in the largest sub-population. For the purposes of the IUCN criteria, sub-populations are defined as geographically or otherwise distinct groups between which there is little or no demographic or genetic exchange, i.e. typically one successful migrant per year or less.
Bhardwaj, G. S., Sivakumar, K. and Jhala, Y. V. (2011) Status, distribution and conservation perspectives of Lesser Florican in the North-Western India: A Survey Report. Wildlife Institute of India.
Rasmussen, P. C. and Anderton, J. C. (2005) Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vols. 1 and 2. Washington, D.C. and Barcelona, Spain: Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions.
Sankaran, R. (2000) The status of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica in 1999. Coimbatore, India: Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History/Bombay Natural History Society.
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