Nagaland – more particularly the people of Wokha district – are getting ready to receive some special guests; anywhere between four to five lakh Amur falcons are expected to arrive any time in the next couple of weeks.
Amur Falcons would arrive from Mongolia, Siberia Northern China and Japan, would stay in Wokha district and adjoining areas for about two months, and then take off for South Africa, a wonderful journey – including a three-and-a-half-day non-stop flight across the Arabian Sea – that was satellite-tracked and documented for the first time in 2013.
“While the arrival of the Amur falcons for roosting in Nagaland itself is a new phenomenon, the people of the district have on their part earned international accolades for having ensured, through community effort, that the birds are not disturbed during their two-month stay here,” said Satya Prakash Tripathi, Chief Wildlife Warden of Nagaland, over the telephone from Kohima today.
Nagas, known for their love for meat, had initially considered these birds as god-sent when they had first arrived about eight or nine years ago. But, even as several thousand birds were caught and consumed in the first few years, a tremendous effort to protect them had resulted in near-zerocasualty in 2013. “In 2012, we estimated that nothing less than 1.40 lakh birds were killed. But, thanks to the community’s positive response to a concerted joint initiative of the forest department and NGOs, we managed to save most of the birds last year,” said Bano Haralu, a journalist who is also managing trustee of Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT).
The Trust, Haralu said, carried out an awareness campaign involving teachers and school children, to whom the community responded very well. This conservation effort fetched the village council of Pangti, a village in Wokha, the prestigious Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Earth Heroes Award, 2014 in “Save the species award” category. “It was only last week that the village council of Pangti, the largest village in the district, took pledge to ensure not one bird would be harmed,” she added.
The state forest department on its part is roping in village councils, student and women’s groups, gaon-burras, educational institutions, government officials, and even the army and para-military companies posted there to ensure a safe passage to the birds through Nagaland. “The government has also issued order by any village council will invite appropriate necessary action from the government including non-release of developmental funds,” said Chief Wildlife Warden Tripathi.
Twenty-six to 30 cms in length, with an average weight of about 260 grams, the Amur falcon – Falco amurensis – is a small raptor of the falcon family that breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and and then onwards acoss the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa.
While the forest department has identified the existence of large number of termites and other insects in the area around Doyang hydro-electric project as an attraction for the birds, NWBCT is roping in Shashank Dalvi of the Bangalore-based National Centre for Biological Studies to conduct a proper scientific study this year. Wildlife Trust of India on the other hand has tied up with a local NGO called Natural Nagas to conduct a scientific study there.
Amur falcons are now also being projected as an important economc proposition. The Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT).for instance is planning to help villagers start home-stay facilities for tourists. “Tourists have already started flowing in. Last year Wokha had at least 2,000 tourists, including several foreigners, who came to watch the falcons,” said district tourist officer Toka Tuccumi.