IN061
Diyatra Closed Area


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Diyatra Closed Area in Bikaner is one of the most important sites for the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps in the Thar Desert (Rahmani 1986, 1997). In the early 1980s, there were 30-50 bustards in this area, but due to intensification of agriculture, overgrazing and poaching, the number has perhaps halved. The site used to be the hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Bikaner for Great Indian Bustard. The site is situated approximately 65 km southwest of Bikaner along the National Highway to Jaisalmer. Various departments of the Rajasthan Government have established pasture enclosures at various periods of time but most of them are neglected and over-run by livestock. If properly protected, these grassland enclosures would have provided undisturbed breeding areas to the Great Indian Bustard. However, now these enclosures are mainly used by Chinkara Gazella bennettii, and Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus, and rarely by the Great Indian Bustard. Important flora of Diyatra consists of Zizyphus rotundifolia, Capparis decidua, Calotropis procera, Prosopis cineraria, Calligonum sp., Leptadenia pyrotechnica and the grass Cenchrus biflorus (Satish K. Sharma pers. comm. 2003). The sandy zone, having low grasslands and scrub vegetation is dominated by Zizyphus rotundifolia and Capparis decidua.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Besides the Great Indian Bustard, Diyatra Closed Area is a regular wintering ground of the Houbara or Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueeni. It is also one of the major strongholds of Stoliczka’s Bushchat Saxicola macrorhyncha. During a survey in 1994, thirty six were sighted in one day in Diyatra area, especially near Hadda, Tokla and Niagaon (Rahmani 1996). Earlier, a lake near Diyatra village used to be an important watering spot for the Imperial or Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis. The Maharaja of Bikaner had built a hunting lodge beside the lake. This rainfed shallow lake is still present, but the number of Imperial Sandgrouse has drastically decreased, some may have moved away as they get water in many other places due to irrigation by the Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (Rahmani 1997). The site lies in Biome-13 i.e., Saharo-Sindian Desert. Sharma (1986) was the first to report breeding of the Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor within Indian limits, from Diyatra region when he saw small chicks in February. Later, this species was found breeding in the Desert National Park (an IBA) (Rahmani and Manakadan 1989). In winter, vast flocks of Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata, Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla, Lesser Short-toed Lark C. rufescens and some Hume’s Short-toed Lark C. acutirostris are seen. In the extant grasslands, Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus are often seen, sometimes 15-20 roosting in few square metres area. The Near Threatened Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus is frequently seen, along with other vultures.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Other fauna of Diyatra includes Chinkara, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Desert Monitor Varanus griseus, and Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx hardwickii. Nilgai or Bluebul which was not present earlier is now increasingly seen, thanks to availability of water and irrigation facilities due to the Indira Gandhi Nahar Project.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Poaching; Agriculture expansion; Grazing.

Due to the increase in the number of settlements and villages around the site, the area of Diyatra is being brought under cultivation, resulting in disturbance to the Great Indian Bustard and Stoliczka’s Bushchat. Fallow land is decreasing and Capparis bushes are being uprooted to clear the ground for human activities. Since declaring Diyatra as a Closed Area for Shooting, the Forest Department seems to have forgotten its existence! There is practically no patrolling. Sometimes, a forest guard is officially posted there but he rarely visits the area, as a result of which poaching is quite common. Hunters mainly come in search of Macqueen’s Bustard and Imperial Sandgrouse but kill Great Indian Bustard when they come across one. Hunting was observed in 1986 (Rahmani 1986). During surveys of 1993-94, and 1998 and 2000, much evidence, including feathers of bustard and jeep tracks, and reports of local people, indicated that illegal hunting was still quite common. The best indication of poaching is the dramatic decrease of bustard numbers over the last 15 years of monitoring this site. Only strict control on poaching and an intensive environmental awareness programme among local villagers can save the Great Indian Bustards of Diyatra Closed Area.

Acknowledgements
Key contributor: Asad R. Rahmani.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Diyatra Closed Area. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/05/2022.