Jorhat, Sept. 15: The Nagaland government has threatened to discontinue development activities in villages near Doyang hydroelectric project in Wokha district if villagers are found to be involved in killing of Amur falcons this year.
“We have issued warning to residents of villages located near the Doyang project not to kill migratory falcons or else the government will stop all development activities in these villages. The rural development department has already issued these letters,” the chief wildlife warden of Nagaland, T. Lotha, told this correspondent today.
He said the Nagaland government was taking all necessary steps this season for the safe passage of these raptors which come to roost at Doyang reservoir while migrating from Asia to South Africa.
The villagers trap and kill thousands of migratory raptors for their meat when the birds visit the wetlands near the project site between end-October and the beginning of November.
Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) is on the IUCN Red List. These birds travel phenomenally long distances (up to 22,000km), passing through India, east Asian and even European countries while migrating in winter from Asia to southern African countries, including Botswana and Zimbabwe. The species is protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Convention of Migratory Species of which India is a signatory.
The killings of these birds in Wokha district was first documented last year by Conservation India, a Bangalore-based NGO, which stated in a report: “A mind-boggling 1,20,000 to 1,40,000 birds (Amur falcons) are being slaughtered in Nagaland every year.”
The report said Doyang probably witnesses the single largest congregation of the birds in the world and it is tragic that they are killed.
The report, published last year, triggered concern among wildlife enthusiasts across the country.
Lotha said a co-ordination committee, with the deputy commissioner of Wokha district as the chairman, has been formed to ensure that no harm is caused to these beautiful birds which visit Nagaland every year during winter.
“This committee has members from the police, forest and rural development departments,” he said.
Lotha said the forest department had also decided to depute extra forces when the birds start arriving. “Gun-toting forest guards and police personnel will patrol these areas round the clock till all the birds leave,” the top forest official of Nagaland said.
The forest department, he said, was also in touch with NGOs to help in the drive to protect Amur falcons this season. “We will do whatever possible to protect the birds but it is the mindset of the villagers which has to be changed. We are taking help from NGOs to generate awareness among villagers,” he said.
The chairman of Natural Nagas, Steve Odyuo, said the NGO had formed a 15-member patrol squad to protest the Amur falcons.
The Sangro Range Youth Organisation, an NGO, will organise an awareness meeting near Doyang reservoir on October 5.