Give safe passage to Amur Falcons
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ome October and Nagaland will be witness to a spectacular phenomenon seen in the arrival of thousands upon thousands of the migratory Amur Falcons.
Last year the ungainly practise of the daily slaughter of thousands of these ‘visitors’ in and around the Doyang reservoir in Wokha district, raised an international outcry.
The matter was brought to light in October 2012 by Conservation India a non – profit, non-commercial portal that aims to facilitate wildlife and nature conservation by providing reliable information. Their findings are recorded on its website http://www.conservationindia.org/campaigns/amur-massacre .On Monday, in preparation for the arrival of the Amur Falcon to the state, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Nagaland has appealed to the public to treat the bird well with the release of the following story of the migratory bird.
The Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis), formerly Eastern Red-footed Falcon, is a small raptor of the falcon family. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China, wintering in Southern Africa. Its diet consists mainly of insects, such as termites. Males are characteristically dark sooty brown with the chestnut on the vent .Females may offer a bit more confusion with a wider range of falcons as they have a typical falcon head pattern.
The Great migration of the Amur Falcon from Mangolia (spend the summer) to South Africa (spend the winter) and back home (Mangolia). One of the most mysterious passage migrants of India is the beautiful Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis). This falcon breeds in Northern China and South eastern Siberia and spends all summer there. It undertakes a migration journey from this region all the way to Southern Africa where they spend the winter and then undertake the journey back home. This raptor is not among the endangered list. Bernd Meyburg and his team has presented the first ever satellite tracking data for Amur Falcons at two conferences, one in the East (Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network conference, Mongolia) and one in South Africa (Birds of Prey Programme Conference, Kimberley). The information gathered on 7 tracked Amur falcons most probably represents the most exciting satellite tracking data from raptors since the first long distance raptor migrants were tracked.
The Amur Falcon has one of the longest raptor migrations, but is also unique because it supposedly flies a long distance over the sea. It was believed that they flew mostly over land during their return journey, but data from Bernd has shown that they fly a distance 2,500 to 3,100km over the sea in spring and do this by flying non-stop for between 2 and 3 days. Other interesting information presented include that there is quite a lot of movement between roosts in their wintering area, they have stop over points on their migration route back to the breeding grounds, and fly south of the Himalayas in northern India. They are also capable of covering huge amounts of distance in a few days and were able to travel up much of Africa in only a few days. Satellite tracking of raptors on migration has become an indispensable tool in studying the routes taken by birds. It is especially useful when used in areas where there is little chance of recovering ringed birds.
In the past, it was not possible to track any of the small falcons due to the size of the satellite transmitters. However, in 2009, the first transmitters became available that were small enough not to affect the survival of the birds (typically 3% of the body mass). Flight 95773(the number given to the Amur falcon bird which is fitted with solar powered transmitter and antenna) Wearing a tiny solar-powered transmitter on her back, and tracked by satellites 850km above, she flies 14 560km, including a 5-daynon-stop journey of 5 912km at 50km/h Satellites track Flight 95773 an Amur Falcon, as she flies to Mongolia from Newcastle (South Africa) with a tiny transmitter on her back. She gives her trackers a showstopper they could never have imagined: a non-stop leg 5 912km over 5 days.
She is one of 10 falcons trapped in Newcastle (South Africa) and fitted with transmitters. The people behind the venture don’t believe in giving birds names, but they give her, and nine other falcons, numbers. Each is the ID of the GPS Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT) strapped to their backs. Hers is PTT 95773.The bird lovers and scientists behind the venture are hoping these small birds with their tiny transmitters will solve one of ornithology’s great mysteries. Where 95773 is heading on that first day of autumn is known. The mystery is her route, not her destination: the breeding grounds of Mongolia. For a long time ornithologists have debated the route that Amur Falcon stake to Mongolia.
She is the pilot, sole passenger, navigator, engine and refueller. She’s Flight 95773.In the first day of autumn, Amur falcon lifts off on an epic 14 560km journey. Part of this will be a five-day nonstop 5 912km flight, mostly over the Indian Ocean, a journey one scientist describes as “amazing”.
She’s an Amur Falcon, a small bird of prey not much bigger than a pigeon. 95773 is built for long-haul flight. Her sleek tapered wings power her to speeds of more than 50km/h and allow her to glide on thermals for long distances What makes this Amur Falcon specialist that sitting on her back is a matchbox sized GPS transmitter that will beam data to several satellites orbiting 850km above the earth. Tracking 95773 will be expensive.
Finally the migration of back journey from South Africa to magnolia is tracked through satellite. It starts its back journey after spending winter and passes through Mozambique, Tanzania, Southern Somalia, flies over Indian Ocean, over Arabian coast, South West Karachi, Eastern India, Eastern Burma and after several other stops, she arrives at her destination the breeding grounds of the Amur Falcon in Mongolia
During 2012 there was wide coverage of its migration in media and it captured international attention because people hunted this raptor while migrating to Doyang catchment area of Wokha district of Nagaland this is a major threat to this beautiful bird and this bird also sighted in other parts of the Nagaland. The forest Department has done its best to convince the people for conservation and for safe passage of our guest Amur Falcon. These raptors will come to Nagaland during October- November and from here migrate to the South Africa.
This year the Forest Department is taking various precautionary measures to give safe passage to our guest Amur Falcon. The Rural Development department has instructed the Grants-in-Aid funds released to all the recognized villages in the State be utilized for protection of environment, as a check and control measure. It is proposed that all the villages will now be mandatorily responsible for conservation of ecological environment, wild life preservation within their respective village jurisdiction. The villages that is reported to be in the habit of destroying the local environment and wild life will be penalized by stopping their Grants-in-Aid allocated to the villages and this fund will be utilized for environmental protection activities with the coordination of the Forest Department in the State. The forest department has written to all Wildlife warden of the district to coordinate with the Rural development Department and requested all DCs and SPs to issues appropriate orders banning of hunting.
The wild life wing of the department with the help of forest staff in divisions are involving the local communities, Village Councils, NGOs, students in awareness campaign in a big way in a participatory approach. Marking a significant milestone for conservation of Amur Falcons in Nagaland, three villages in Wokha district have pledged to save the migratory raptor in Doyang Reservoir – its largest roosting site in the country. With mass annual hunt potentially threatening the species, a resolution has been passed by the villages to penalise offenders, this year onwards. Village Council Members (VCM) of Pangti, Asshaa and Sungro signed a tri-party Memorandum of Understanding with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Wokha-based NGO Natural Nagas, to assist the Nagaland Forest Department to stop the wide-scale hunt which was brought to light last year. Many NGO are helping Forest Department in awareness campaign for protection and safe passage of Amur Falcons
It is also observed people are helping the Forest Department by donating the wild animals to be kept in Nagaland Zoological Park. The Forest Department is conveying its gratitude to all who have donated wild animals and also appeal to spread conservation movement in a big way by conserving and protection of wildlife in its natural habitat. The department needs people cooperation and participation in conservation of rich biodiversity as Nagaland falls in Indo Myanmar hotspot and people’s participation is necessary for safe passage to Amur Falcon. It is also to mention that as the Doyang catchment area is recognised internationally for Amur Falcon migration during October and November. Government can promote ecotourism during the Amur Falcon migration period and it will attract foreigners to see the roosting of the lakhs of beautiful tiny Amur Falcons and the livelihoods of the local people will improve with ecotourism.
Let us pledge to save “our dear guest” Amur Falcon during its migration October- November and everyone’s must help her to give safe passage to migrate from Nagaland to South Africa..
“God loved birds and invented tress. Man loved birds invented cages”-Jacques Davel
M.Lokeswara Rao I.F.S
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests
and Head of Forest Force
Note: This article is prepared based on information from various scientific papers for which citation are given.