| Amur Falcons at Doyang Hydroelectricity Power Project reservoir in Wokha district of Nagaland. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, Oct. 19: A marathon to create awareness on the need to protect wildlife, especially migratory Amur falcons, was organised in Nagaland’s Wokha district today.
More than 150 persons from six villages in the district participated in the event.
The race was held along a 6.5km track passing through villages along the Doyang Hydroelectric Power Project where thousands of Amur falcons arrive during winter to take refuge at the wetland near the project, before moving on.
Kamdi Hemant Bhaskar, the Nagaland deputy conservator of forests, told The Telegraph over phone that the race was held in three categories — ladies, juniors and seniors — and was kicked off from Pangti village passing through lanes and bylanes of the villages near the water project.
“The aim of the marathon is to spread awareness among the villagers to protect wildlife, especially the Amur falcons, which arrive at Doyang every winter,” the forest official said.
Hemant said as Amur falcons are marathon migratory birds, travelling up to 22,000km, the forest department had planned the marathon race among the villagers.
The avians break their journey at the wetland in Wokha while migrating from Siberia to Africa between October and November every year.
The forest official said the first three winners in the senior category were awarded Rs 6,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 2,000 respectively.
The forest department had sponsored the prizes.
There were also similar cash awards in the other two categories.
“It was a lovely sight to see hundreds of participants wearing T-shirts (with save-environment messages) running through the villages. We think the event has managed to have a positive impact on the villagers,” Bhaksar said.
It was in these villages till last year that the people massacred thousands of Amur falcons.
The hunting 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 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.
Hemant said people of the six villages — Pangti, Aasha, Sungro, Okotho, Aree 1 and Aree 2 — where the marathon was held today, had been involved in the killing of these birds till last year.
The Wokha district administration has banned the use of firearms, knives, nets and others items capable of killing wildlife until further others.
Nagaland’s chief wildlife warden T. Lotha said there has been no report of any attempt being made to kill or catch the birds till now and the villagers are supporting the forest department and the district administration totally.
“We are hopeful that the Amur falcons will have a safe passage through Nagaland this season,” he said.
Lotha said the forest department has been planning to host a cultural programme at Wokha near Doyang reservoir next month to thank the villagers for their contribution towards the safe passage of the Amur falcons.