The man who spotted a pair of Great Indian Bustards, a dwindling species and the State bird of Rajasthan, in Jodhpur after a gap of seven years, was felicitated this weekend. Conservationist NGOs and nature loving Bishnoi community organisations hailed the work of forester Om Prakash Vyas, as “rediscovery” of the bird in the desert terrain.

Mr. Vyas, who is posted at Phalodi in Jodhpur district, spotted the pair consecutively for the past two years during the annual wildlife census, each time in the Oran (sacred grove) near Khara village towards west of Phalodi. This year he did it on March 30.

“It is good news for all those who consider this bird as flagship species of the grassland ecology in the country,” said Harsh Vardhan who initiated the felicitation for Mr. Vyas. “He sports a pair of binoculars and clicks photographs with a digital camera, both on his own. Each time he photographed these birds and presented his ‘find' to officials as a proof of this rather elusive species.” Mr. Vardhan noted.

In lieu of his exemplary “spotting job”, Mr. Vyas was publicly felicitated in Jodhpur on Sunday, presented with a stone replica of Great Indian Bustard and a certificate on behalf on Bombay Natural History Society, WWF - India, Tourism & Wildlife Society of India and World Pheasant Association - India. The stone replica was created by Ruchir Tiwari in his stone-dressing factory in Jaipur as a mark of his gesture for bird-conservation.

Congress MLA from Luni Malhan Singh, who is president of the Khejreli Shaheedi Rashtriya Paryavaran Sansthan, lauded Mr. Vyas' services and said Bishnois always took pride in conserving wild life at the cost of their own lives. Khara is a Bishnoi dominated village and all such villages harbour Orans which serve as unofficial sanctuaries for local flora and fauna.

The Bishnoi Tigers Vanya and Paryavaran Sansthan, which are largely responsible for curbing poaching of Indian Gazelles and Blackbuck in the Jodhpur region, took lead in organising the event.