The Journey of Amur Falcon in Nagaland

Amur falcon (Falco amurensis)  

Description: The Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) is a small raptor of the falcon family. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa. 

Diets: Their diet consists mainly of insects, such as termites; during migration over the sea, they are thought to feed on migrating dragonflies. The Amur falcon feeds mainly late in the evening or early in the morning capturing a wide range of insects in the air or on the ground.    

Migration route: The Amur falcon breeds in East Asia from the Transbaikalia, Amurland, and northern Mongolian region to parts of North Korea. They migrate in a broad front through India, sometimes further east over Thailand and Cambodia and then over the Arabian Sea, sometimes in passage on the Maldives and other islands to reach southern Africa.    

Status & Conservation Efforts in Nagaland: The Amur Falcon migration and roosting in Nagaland is not new. Our elders use to tell us that this migratory bird (Molulem in Ao dialect) used to see every winter but not in many numbers. It was during late part of 1980s when large numbers of this bird migrated and roosted at Changtongya and neighbouring villages (Merangkong, Yaongyimsen and Akhoya) in abundant jhum land. One particular location called Kanglatu at Changtongya was the main areas where millions of Amur falcon roosted during the winter season from last week of October to first week of December. The villagers started killing since 1996 in thousands every year for food and sell in the markets. Since the birds are very docile and roost in low branches of trees, it can be easily shoot by the hunters. Every year one hunter may get upto Rs 40,000.00 by selling this bird. This killing continues for few years.  

The undersigned is being from this Changtongya village, started awareness campaign from 1989 while I was posted as range-in-charge, Mokokchung range to protect the wild animals and birds particularly this migratory birds in the areas. There was steep resistance from the hunting community in the village as their income from killing and selling of this bird will stop completely. It was easy for them to get huge money by selling this bird. After many years of hurtles and campaign, the villager decided to have a general council meeting during 2001 to discussed the issues. During the meeting there was steep resistance from many villagers. Another resistance for conservation this bird is from land owning villagers. The roosting area stretches thousands of hectares. These areas are very fertile and best land for jhum cultivation. After a long discussion, the village council decided to protect the birds and keep moratorium on hunting for 5 years. It is also suggested and agreed to declare the birds roasting area (Kanglatu) as Community Conservation Reserve. An area of 760 ha was earmarked as Community Conservation Area (CCA). In the meeting it was also decided that if anybody kill and sell the birds, a fine of Rs.5000.00 will be imposed on the person. A dedicated young vigilant group was formed and guard the areas.  

It was big success and moral boaster to the conservationist especially for me as the initiator. The Forest Department has come forward to fund for development and protection of this CCA. Now this is one of the best conservation areas in the State and was an eye opener to other villages all over the State.  

The food (termites) which was aplenty in the areas at that time was slowly diminished and by around 2010, the birds slowly migrated to other roosting sites. Major roosting concentration was noticed in and around Doyang river dam (Pangti village jhumland area). However, the location became notoriously famous for killing thousands of this bird. A team of naturalist visited the area and highlighted in the newspapers about the killing of the birds during 2012. There was hue and cry from all corner of the world to protect and conserve this migratory bird. The State Forest Department has taken concrete initiative immediately to conserve the birds from next roasting season. It was a big success and the Pangti Village Amur Roosting Association was formed; who are mostly responsible in conserving the birds.    

Satellite tracking: The first satellite tracking of Amur falcon from Nagaland was initiated during 2013. At the Doyang roost site, after several attempts over three days, 30 Amurs were finally trapped using mist nets on the night of November 6, 2013. Three of them in good feather condition, and appearing to be in good health were selected for the satellite tagging. One male was named Naga in short for Nagaland; one female was named Wokha after the name of the district which is globally important for its roost site; and a second female was named Pangti after the village located in Wokha district and in recognition of the efforts made by the people of Pangti to protect these falcons. The birds were fitted with the state-of-the-art 5 gram Solar-Powered PTT (Microwave Telemetry Inc.), like a backpack using a specially made teflon harness, and released in the morning of November 7. All the birds were ringed with a BNHS metal ring on the left leg and a colour-coded plastic ring on the right. Presently Pangti and Wokha are deactivated but the Naga is still active and is completed its 3rd cycle covering more than 60,000 km. The small raptors can fly non-stop 5 days and 10 hours from Nagaland to South Africa covering approximately a distance of 5400 km    

Awards received: It was during 2014, awards were given in recognition of the Amur Falcon conservation efforts by the Department and especially by the Pangti villagers. Royal Bank Scotland Earth Heroes Award 2014 to Pangti Village Council Balipara Foundation Award 2014 to Forest Department & Pangti Village Council. Today, the birds are roosting in several places – Pangti and surrounding villages, Wokha District, Yaongyimchen, Longleng District, Intanki National Park, Peren District, Niuland, Dimapur District and Changtongya original roasting place, Mokokchung District.  

This year, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India has approved and sanctioned 5 nos. satellite tracking Solar-Powered PTT (Microwave Telemetry Inc.) for Amur falcon tagging. Presently scientists from Hungary and Wildlife Institute of India have came to tag the satellite in the birds and release for tracking the moment of these birds.        

Present location of Amur Falcon  

This year (Oct. to Nov. 2016) a total 5 numbers Satellite Tracking solar-powered PTT Amur Falcon was tagged and released from Nagaland, India. They are all active including the Naga and started flying to South Africa.     

I Panger Jamir PCCF & Head of Forest Force Kohima, Nagaland