The Telegraph
Monday , June 9 , 2014
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Is Wokha dead? Signal from SA turns static

- Or, has the tracker fallen off? Device fitted to Amur falcon indicates bird has not moved for a month

Jorhat, June 8: One of the three Amur falcons fitted with satellite-tracking devices in Nagaland last year, has either died or the tracking device has fallen off the bird.

Disclosing this exclusively to The Telegraph, the principal chief conservator of forests, Nagaland, M. Lokeswra Rao, said the tracking device fitted to the bird named Wokha had been sending signals from an area near Phuthaditjhaba

(formerly Witsieshoek) in the Free State province of South Africa constantly since a month now.

“This is something unusual and we firmly believe that the bird is either dead or the device fell off,” Rao said.

The other two birds — Naga and Pangti — which were also fitted with similar devices have already returned from South Africa where they had gone from Nagaland in November along with flocks of birds they were travelling with, and have reached their roosting sites in Mongolia.

The initiative to satellite track these migratory raptors was taken jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme, ministry of environment and forests, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and the Nagaland forest department.

Two experts from MME-BirdLife Hungary, Peter Fehervani and Szabolcs Soil, programme officer-birds of prey (raptors), ornithologist, Convention on Migratory Species Office, Abu Dhabi, United Nations Environment Programme, Nick Williams and Wildlife Institute of India scientist R. Suresh had come to Nagaland in November last year to carry out the satellite-tracking operation, which is the first of its kind in India.

Twenty-eight other Amur falcons were also fitted with leg bands or rings for proper study of these migratory species, which travel about 22,000km every year from Mongolia to Africa via Nagaland. Rao said the Nagaland forest department is in touch with MME-BirdLife, regarding the fate of the particular bird. While Naga is a male bird, Wokha and Pangti are both females and were named after Nagaland state, Wokha district and Pangti village respectively. They were fitted with the satellite devices on November 7.

A device has an antenna and a solar panel which is fitted to the back of the bird. It weighs about 5gm and will not hamper the birds’ movements. The cost of each device is about Rs 7 lakh. Rao said Naga and Pangti had taken a different route while returning from South Africa and had entered the Indian subcontinent through the Gujarat coast. “The two birds flew over Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Manipur and avoided the Bay of Bengal while returning to Mongolia.”

Rao said Nagaland has already started preparation for safe return of the Amur falcons this year, which will be in November, while they again return to South Africa via Nagaland.

Amur falcons, raptors with pigeon looks, are said to have one of the longest migratory routes. These birds travel from Mongolia to South Africa via India where they rest at the water reservoir of Doyang hydroelectric power project in Wokha district of Nagaland. They feed on insects during the day and rest on trees near the reservoir at night.

The falcons spend about one month in Nagaland every autumn to gain fitness for their onward journey to Africa over the Arabian Sea. Till a few years ago, Doyan roosting site was dubbed the killing fields of falcons. They were killed in large numbers by villagers. After initiatives taken by the forest department and a few NGOs, not a single bird was killed last year.

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