January 21, 2016 5:19:00 pm
Three years after a massive awareness campaign put an end to indiscriminate killing of thousands of Amur falcons that roosted at Pangti and other adjoining villages in Nagaland, which also fetched the village several laurels, the village council and state forest department have erected a typical Naga traditional rock monolith declaring it as the “falcon capital of the world.”
The six-foot rock monolith which has inscriptions and images of several awards marking the success story of conservation also puts on record, in brief, the entire story of how people of this Naga village had converted themselves from cruel hunters to hardcore conservationists. Pangti in Wokha district is about 90 kms east of Kohima, the state capital.
“It was indeed a historic occasion when the monolith was unveiled in the presence of village elders, Church and community leaders, with the entire village taking pride that it had become globally known as the conservation effort attracted worldwide attention,” M Lokeswara Rao, principal chief conservator of forest, Nagaland said from Kohima.
While migratory Amur falcons were first spotted roosting in Pangti in 2001 in large numbers, villagers soon took to indiscriminate hunting of the birds with the meat finding way to markets in Kohima, Dimapur and other towns of the hill state in the subsequent years. “It was definitely owing to lack of awareness that the people, globally known for their hunting tradition, had started killing the birds. By 2006 the people even started using nets to trap the birds in large numbers,” said Rao.
“It was only in 2012 that the Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Trust, along with another NGO called Natural Nagas rang the alarm bell and joined hands with the forest department to mount a massive conservation campaign. It worked like magic and soon unbelievably converted the traditional hunters to serious conservationists,” Rao recalled. The conservation movement soon became a community effort, he said, pointing out that it soon spread to all over Nagaland. Wildlife Trust of India and Bombay Natural History Society too have become partners of this effort.
“Pangti in fact is slowly emerging as a new tourist destination in Nagaland, with hundreds of visitors, including foreigners coming here in October-November to watch the birds. We are also getting bird-watchers and nature lovers. In fact, while killing of birds has become history, conservation of the birds has made our village famous,” said Ronchamo Shitiri, chairman of the Pangti Village Council.
Shitiri also takes pride in pointing out that the conservation initiative has brought several laurels to the village as well as to others associated with the campaign. The list of awards that the Amur falcons have brought for Pangti and Nagaland include the Earth Heroes Award 2014 given by Royal Bank of Scotland, the Balipara Foundation Award, and the governor’s commendation certificate.
Bano Haralu, managing trustee of the Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust however said that while saving the Amur falcons was one thing, spreading the message of overall nature conservation was another that was yet to be achieved. “It is good that the village community very quickly picked up the message for ensuring safety of the migratory falcons. Now, as more villages across Nagaland are picking up the idea, we hope to bring about a major change in overall bio-diversity conservation in the years to follow,” Haralu said.
“Several villages, not just in Nagaland, but also in the neighbouring states have picked up the conservation message. People Tamenglong in Manipur, Umrangso in Assam and Ri-bhoi in Meghalaya for instance last year organized music and nature festivals when flocks of Amur falcons also visited their respective villages,” Haralu added.
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