With the hunters of migratory Amur Falcon birds turning into protectors, Nagaland has become the “Falcon capital” of the world. “Against the general perception of Naga people being compulsive hunters, the success of Amur Falcon conservation has put Nagaland on the global map; and the sheer number of the Amur Falcon population here has made it the ‘Falcon Capital’ of the world,” Nagaland’s divisional forest officer (Doyang) Zuthunglo Patton said in a statement.
While migrating to African sub-continent every winter to escape the extreme cold of Siberia, thousands of Amur Falcon birds roost in Nagaland for over a month. Till two years ago, the raptors were slaughtered in large numbers by locals and eaten as food.The forest official said focused and relentless awareness in the last one year had brought about the success. “The communities of Pangti and adjoining villages in Wokha District have turned the spectacular migration of these magnificent birds into a lifetime opportunity for tourists whose jaws drop in utter amazement over the unforgettable sight,” Patton said.
Last week, the first batch of Amur falcons arrived in the Doyang Reservoir, after which the villagers of Ashaa, Pangti and Sungro once again reaffirmed their last year’s commitment and dedication to protect the falcons with the support of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Nagaland forest department. WTI’s CEO Dr Jagdish Kishwan said they had formed protection squads of around 30 former hunters who patrol the area to make sure that all visiting falcons were safe.
‘Falcon capital’ keeps its promise of conservation
Last year in November a team of international ornithologists had estimated arrival of around one million Amur Falcons during annual migration of this species near Wakha in Nagaland which is their roosting site for a month before their onward journey to South Africa. Nick Williams, Head of Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU) had that time said that this was by far the largest and most spectacular roost of any species of falcons ever witnessed anywhere in the world, it represents a unique and irreplaceable part of the rich bio-diversity of Nagaland. A team of scientists from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Wildlife Institute of India, Convention on Migratory Species Office, United Nations Environment Programme and Environment Agency undertook a joint scientific mission to satellite-tag the Amur Falcons in Nagaland.
The plight of the Amur Falcons in Nagaland came to fore when Conservation India and its associates at Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust exposed the killings of around one lakh Amur Falcons in October 2012 and this disclosure triggered a campaign to save this migratory raptor. The migrating falcons spend the day on the transmission wires (almost entirely inaccessible to hunters) and descend to forested patches along the banks of the Doyang reservoir to roost. The hunters had ruthlessly exploited this particular roosting behaviour and use to set-up huge fishing nets (30-40m long, 10-12m tall) all over the roosting sites
Amur Falcon has a huge ecological significance as it eats insects like grasshoppers, termites, locusts among others. The Falcons spend about one month in the State of Nagaland every autumn where they feast on these insects to gain fitness for their long arduous journey of Africa. The Amur Falcon Falco amurensis is a small raptor in the falcon family that is an exceptional long distance flyer. It breeds in north-east Asia (China, North Korea and Russia) and in winter migrates to south-east Africa, undertaking one of the longest over-sea flights known for a bird of prey (of over 4000 km). The total distance covered during migration is 22,000 km, among the longest migrations recorded.