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Naga, Pangti begin return journey

- Amur falcons on their way back to Mongolia after South Africa sojourn

Jorhat, April 23: Naga and Pangti, two of the three Amur falcons which were fitted with satellite-tracking devices in Nagaland last year, have started their return journey to Mongolia after spending the summer in South Africa.

Naga (indicated by a red mark on the tracking map) reached Bangladesh and is about to enter Meghalaya. Wokha (yellow mark) is set to take the most dangerous and hazardous journey over the Arabian Sea and has been spotted at Kismayo, a port city in southern Lower Juba (Jubbada Hoose) province of Somalia today.

The third bird, Pangti (orange mark), has not yet started its return journey and has been seen roosting at Phutaditjhaba, a town in the Free State province of South Africa.

The principal chief conservator of forests Nagaland, M. Lokeswara Rao, told The Telegraph today that Naga had crossed the Arabian Sea on April 21 and has entered India via the Gujarat coast. “It travelled over the Arabian Sea via Karnataka from Nagaland while going to South Africa but has returned via the Gujarat coast after crossing the Arabian Sea,” the top forest official in Nagaland said.

He said although Naga was spotted in Bangladesh, where it had reached via Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, it is unlikely that the bird would come to Nagaland again now.

“Amur falcons visit the Doyang hydroelectric project site for roosting only in late October and November when the birds return from Mongolia to South Africa. It is most likely that the birds will take a different route from Bangladesh to Mongolia,” he said.

This is the first time in India that Amur falcons, the migratory raptors that resemble pigeons, were being fitted with satellite-tracking devices in a bid to study more about the birds. They are said to have one of the longest migratory routes in the bird kingdom, travelling up to 22,000km every year. These birds travel from Mongolia to South Africa via India, where they rest for a few days at Wokha district in Nagaland.

The cost of each device is about Rs 7 lakh.

Another forest official in Nagaland, who is keeping a close watch on the three birds, said it was in 2010 that 10 Amur falcons were fitted with satellite-tracking devices in South Africa by a group of scientists led by Bern-Ulrich Meyburg of Germany. However, only one bird returned to Newcastle in South Africa after completing the migration route.

Most of these birds were believed to have died in the killing fields of Nagaland.

Nagaland had witnessed the killing of hundreds of Amur falcons every year till last year, when the authorities and the villagers of Pangti took a pledge to protect these birds. Nagaland managed to keep the promise and there were no reports of a single bird being killed last year.

The state also made international headlines with the achievement and the authorities and the Pangti villagers of the state were praised for their effort.

Rao said it was a great feeling to observe the birds taking the return journey and the satellite-tracking devices working perfectly.

Naga, a male, and Wokha and Pangti, two females were named after Nagaland, Wokha district and Pangti village and were fitted with the satellite devices on November 7. They left Nagaland a few days later to South Africa.