| Renchio Jami, a villager at Pangti in Nagaland’s Wokha district, receives a t-shirt, cap, torch and hunting boots from forest officials. Picture by Pullock Dutta |
Jorhat, Sept. 20: Hunting 200 to 500 Amur falcons a day was routine for Renchio Jami, a villager of Pangti in Nagaland’s Wokha district.
Today, this 40-year-old hunter has turned protector of the migratory raptors, which arrive at the wetlands near the Doyang hydroelectric project on their way to Africa from Siberia between October and November.
“I used to kill upto 500 birds a day for their meat every season because I had no idea that they came from so far. I also sold a few for Rs 25 per bird in local markets. But I have realised my mistake and have joined the squad formed to protect the birds,” he told The Telegraph over phone.
Renchio and 14 other hunters from three villages, Pangti, Aasha and Sangro, located near the Doyang water reservoir, have joined the Amur Falcon Protection Squad. A meeting on protection of the birds was held at Pangti village yesterday. The forest department and a few NGOs involved in the project distributed T-shirts, caps, hunting boots and torchlights, so that these hunters-turned-protectors can perform their duty in comfort.
“The squad will patrol the areas where these birds roost so that no harm is caused to them. Forest and police personnel will assist the squad,” a forest official said.
Renchio said as hunting is a tradition for the villagers residing near the Doyang project, most people are involved in hunting of these birds apart from farming and fishing.
“These are remote areas and hunting, fishing and farming are the only activities for villagers,” he said.
Steve Odyuo, founder of Natural Nagas, an NGO working for wildlife conservation in Nagaland, said several awareness meetings had been held in the three villages for over a month now to convince the villagers not to harm the falcons. “We have taken the village council chiefs into confidence. They have assured us of help and agreed to impose a penalty of Rs 500 on any villager found involved in killing Amur falcons,” he said.
Steve said signboards on the importance of Amur falcons have also been put up at various locations near the roosting areas of these birds.
“We have also distributed 50kg rice to 99 families in these three villages to win the people’s confidence, while urging them not to kill the falcons and will assist them further,” Dilip Deori, an official of Wildlife Trust of India, another NGO involved in the project, said.
Amur falcon, Falco amurensis, is a species listed in the IUCN Red List. These birds travel long distances (up to 22,000km), passing through India, East Asian and even European countries. In winter, they migrate 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, to which India is a signatory.
The massacre of these birds at Wokha district in Nagaland was first documented last year by Conservation India, a Bangalore-based NGO. Its report stated: “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 witnessed the single largest congregation of the bird in the world and it was tragic that they met with such a fate.
The Nagaland government has threatened to discontinue development activities in villages located near the Doyang project, if villagers are found involved in killing of Amur falcons.