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Safer Nagaland greets amur falcons this year

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By PULLOCK DUTTA
  • Published 10.10.13
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Jorhat, Oct. 9: Under the watchful eyes of gun-toting forest guards, security men and members of NGOs, amur falcons have started arriving at Doyang hydroelectric power project water reservoir in Wokha district of Nagaland this season.

“About 50 birds arrived on October 1 and more and more are coming every day. Today, there were about 1,000 birds near the reservoir,” Nagaland chief wildlife warder T. Lotha told The Telegraph.

Lotha has been regularly monitoring the situation to ensure the safe passage of these migratory raptors. There was no report of any attempt being made to kill or catch the birds till today, he added.

He said animal rights activist Menaka Gandhi had called him yesterday to ask about the steps being taken for the safety of the birds.

Reports of annual killing of these birds had triggered concern among wildlife enthusiasts across the country last year, with the Bombay Natural History Society writing to Union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan requesting immediate steps to stop the mass killings and also to create awareness among the villagers involved.

Amur falcon (Falco amurensis), a species of least concern in the IUCN Red List, is endemic to Asia, including parts of Siberia, Mongolia and North Korea. But these birds travel up to 22,000km, passing through India, east Asian and even European countries, while migrating in winter 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.

Reports said nearly 1,20,000 to 1,40,000 amur falcons are slaughtered in Nagaland every year.

Lotha said necessary steps were taken so that not a single bird was killed. The district administration and top forest officials from Kohima were monitoring the situation regularly.

Steve Odyuo, founder of Natural Nagas, an NGO working for wildlife conservation in Nagaland, said along with amur falcons, other migratory birds have also started arriving at Doyang. “With no hunting taking place this season, we have seen several species of other migratory birds arriving at Doyang this season. And if things continue this way, the place would soon turn into a paradise for birds in the years to come,” he said.

Lotha said there was scope to develop the area into a bird sanctuary with a large number of migratory birds arriving every winter. “Once more new species of birds will arrive at Doyang once the killings stop, we are thinking of developing this area into a tourists destination, especially for ornithologists,” Lotha said.

Hunters, mainly from Aasha, Pangti and Sungro used to lay permanent nets close to the reservoirs to trap the birds when they came to roost in the evenings or when they flew away early in the morning.

Besides killing the birds for meat, the villagers reportedly keep them alive inside mosquito nets and cane baskets to sell them in markets.