This year, as in 2013, the migration of the Amur Falcons continues in full swing along the Doyang reservoir, Nagaland. There continues to be no killings reported so far! The government, the forest department, local NGOs and, not the least, the local communities have extended their conservation efforts for the second year running to ensure there are no trapping of the birds. This season, the local community demonstrated more ownership by creating the Amur Falcon Roosting Areas Union (AFRAU), which setup check posts and carried out patrolling during the migratory season.
Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang who visited the area on Nov 9th said that the roosting area of the Amur Falcons had the potential to become one of the best tourist spots not only in Nagaland but also in the country. There has been initiatives to develop ecotourism in these villages to try and create a livelihood for erstwhile hunters. Several community members have created “homestays” to cater to the trickle of tourists, wildlife photographers and filmmakers who came visiting this season.
This year, while Nagaland has put a firm end to the mass killings, there are reports of hunting from Umrangso, Assam and Tamenglong, Manipur.
The Umrangso killings was reported last year and local NGOs have been working with the communities to stop the killings. The Manipur incidents was not known till this year. In both places efforts are underway with local NGOs, forest department and the army trying to control the hunting.
Like in the case of Nagaland, it is likely that these killings have been going on for years with hunters capitalising on these mass stopovers during migration. Since traditional hunting and bushmeat consumption is rampant in these areas, nobody would have assumed a few dead falcons in markets as indicative of a “mass slaughter”. Given the heightened awareness of Amur Falcons in the last couple of years, the local media is taking lead now. But it shows that the problem is serious as it is widespread across the Northeast.
An enormous effort is required at all roosting sites in the Northeast to stop the killings once and for all. It needs a lot of will and coordination between NGOs, local governments and the communities engaged in hunting.
The annual Amur Falcon migratory season is just round the corner. In less than a month we should start seeing the first of the falcons descend along the banks of the Doyang Reservoir. Conservation India will continue to report on the on-ground conservation programme that was fielded in 2012 after the killings were reported on these pages. Since then, the Amur Falcon has become the flagship of nature conservation in these areas.
The Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT), one of the NGOs spearheading the conservation activity, will expand its education programme and community outreach through their Ecoclubs targeting school children. It plans to add two more clubs this season. One of those clubs will target adults — hunters, students, Church leaders and village council members. These two additional clubs will enhance the reach of spreading the message of conservation within the community with its own people at the forefront.
The passage migration of Amur Falcons through Nagaland is drawing to a close. The season lasted almost two months with the first birds arriving in early October. A big thank you and sincere congratulations to the Naga communities of Pangti, Sungro, Ashaa and Doyang villages who rose up to the occasion to provide safe passage to the falcons. Here is a delightful thank you message from Rohan Chakravarty!
Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT) just finished a volunteer-driven survey across a dozen locations in Northeast India, recording their numbers, routes, and roosts, as well as hunting pressures. Conservation India will publish a report on this shortly.
Also, in a significant achievement, three Amur falcons were satellite tagged and released on Nov 6th 2013 in Pangti. The birds were named Naga, Wokha and Pangti. The three birds were fitted with satellite tags with antenna and solar panel weighing 5 gram on their back.
The tagged birds’ migration can be monitored from this website.
Male ‘Naga’ has Color Ring number KAM, Ring Number C56801; female ‘Wokha’ Color Ring Number KCM, Ring Number C56802 and another female ‘Pangti’ has Color Ring Number KFM, Ring Number C56803. All three birds have reached Africa. Click here to view their route.
The satellite tagging was an initiative of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Convention on Migratory Species Office (CMS), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Nagaland forest department.
The migration of the Amur Falcons continues in full swing in Doyang, Nagaland, and there continues to be no killings reported so far!
To extend his support to the ongoing conservation efforts and to witness first hand the Amur Falcon spectacle, the Nagaland Chief Minister Mr. Neiphiu Rio visited Doyang.
On Sunday, the CM arrived with his wife as well as Minister for Environment and Forests Y Patton, Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Husbandry Yitachu, Parliamentary Secretary Labour and Employment Dr. Nicky Kire and several senior officers from the district administration, police and forest department.
He personally witnessed the spectacle of migrating Amur Falcon congregations and was truly delighted. He photographed them for over two hours. He later addressed the assembled community members, thanked them for their spectacular conservation efforts and listened to Amur Falcon songs sung by our (NWBCT’s) ecoclub members!
The CM was very supportive and repeatedly emphasized the importance of the ongoing education and awareness drives needed to sustain the outcome.
Bano Haralu, who was an invitee to the event, was present with our full team (from Pangti, Sungro & Doyang) along with the children from the ecoclubs.
The enclosed picture shows the Chief Minister interacting with the ‘Friends of the Amur Falcon’ ecoclub members in Doyang.
Great news! The peak migration of Amur Falcons is on, and there have been absolutely no killings reported so far! This remarkable outcome has been the result of a full year of painstaking effort from the Nagaland government (especially the forest department), NGO groups, and most importantly, the local communities who were determined to end the killings.
Every morning, tens of thousands of falcons gather along the banks of the Doyang reservoir in a spectacle that is impossible to describe in words! These are probably the largest numbers of migratory raptors in the world (of one species!) and they climax in massive congregations along the reservoir. Before and after this ‘bottleneck’ the birds have never been seen in these mind-boggling numbers.
Our team at Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT) has set-up month-long Amur Falcon counts across the Northeast in over a dozen locations.
Post Conservation India’s reporting of this incident, and the subsequent national and international outcry, a lot of on-ground conservation initiatives have been initiated in Nagaland. Principally, the Government of Nagaland, at every level, are fully committed to end the killings and have geared up to face this season.
The Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT), a Dimapur-based NGO, is leading a comprehensive programme with the support of the government as well as leading conservation NGOs. They have been in touch with various government officials as well as the community members since October last year on ways to stop the killings in 2013. They recently kicked off their ‘Friends of the Amur Falcon’ campaign with a conservation education programme covering the important villages in Wokha district. In a message of support, the Chief Minister of Nagaland Mr. Neiphiu Rio stated “The state government is committed to end the unfortunate killings of the migratory Amur Falcons in Nagaland while they are passing through the state. Further, Mr. Rio added, “It is our duty to protect the Amur Falcons and, in true Naga tradition of hospitality, treat them as honoured and esteemed guests”.
In addition, other NGOs like Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Natural Nagas have also been been active in drawing up innovative initiatives to help prevent hunting of the falcons this year.
The marathon migrant
The Amur Falcon is a complete, long distance, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006). It has one of the of longest migration routes of all birds — doing upto 22,000 km in a year — from eastern Asia all the way to Southern Africa and back. It also is unusual in migrating over sea and migrates during the night (Meyburg 2010). Migrating birds leave their Asian breeding range and travel to northeast India and Bangladesh, where they fatten up while staging for overland flights over peninsular India (Ali and Ripley 1984). Subsequently, they undertake the longest regular overwater passage of any raptor, crossing over the Indian Ocean between Western India and tropical East Africa, a journey of more than 4,000 km, which also includes nocturnal flight (Bildstein and Zalles 2005). This species is finely attuned to the strong monsoon tailwinds, which results in its late arrival in eastern Africa in autumn (Ash and Atkins 2009). Migrants arrive in their southern African winter range in November-December and depart by early May (Mendelsohn 1997). This species is an “elliptical migrant” (Kerlinger 1989), and its return route back to its breeding range is largely overland and to the north and west of its southbound route (Bildstein and Zalles op cit.). Useful articles:
- The amazing saga of this Amur Falcon.
- Amur Falcon migration route finally plotted.
- Amur falcon fact file.
Media coverage so far:
- The Guardian » How three Indian villages saved the Amur falcon
- LiveMint » The flight of the Amur Falcon
- Morung Express » Mokokchung DC cautions hunters
- Mongabay » India moves rapidly to protect Amur falcons from mass-hunting
- Morung Express » Forest department gearing up to protect Amur Falcons
- Eastern Mirror » CM lauds first Amur Falcon education initiative in State
- Morung Express » 'Friends of the Amur Falcon' campaign launched
- Nagaland Post » Villagers in Wokha pledge to protect amur falcons
- Mongabay » From catastrophic to the sustainable: the flight of the Amur Falcon
- SCIENCE » Exploitation in Northeast India
- Open » The Killing Fields of Falcons
- Rajya Sabha TV [Video] » Wide-scale killing of Migratory Amur Falcons in Nagaland is raising questions on India's commitment towards biodiversity.
- Daily News, Tanzania » Satellite-tracked amur falcon escapes massacre of 120,000 of her fellows
- National Geographic Daily News » Pictures: Falcon Massacre Uncovered in India
- Yahoo News » MoEF sounded on Amur falcon massacre in Nagaland
- Birdwatch » Quick action to save India's Amur Falcon
- Birdlife International » Help required to end hunting massacre in Nagaland, India
- TOI, Mumbai » BNHS supports the cause of conservation of Amur falcons
- The Star » Flight into a Killing Field
- Times of India, Pune » Protect Amur falcons, BNHS tells MoEF
- CNN-IBN Live [VIDEO] » Thousands of Amur falcon birds poached for trade, consumption in Nagaland
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds » Amur Falcon Slaughter....time to speak up!
- 'Campaign Cartoon' -- Green Humour! » Never Land in Nagaland!
- Hindustan Times » MoEF sounded on Amur falcon massacre in Nagaland
- Bird Ecology Study Group » Massacre of Amur Falcons in Nagaland
- National Geographic Explorers Journal » Migrating Amur Falcons Massacred in India: We Need A Global Solution
- Morung Express, Nagaland » Notification against trapping of migratory falcon birds
- Kolkata Birds » A Sad Encounter with Migratory Amur Falcons in Nagaland (2009)