Rising to the occasion
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast October news of the ugly massacre of the migratory Amur falcons which passage through the state in October and early November hit news headlines nationally and internationally. Nagaland made news for the wrong reasons. This year it is poised to change this aberration of its image just as dramatically and perhaps more importantly send out a message worldwide that hope for environment and wildlife conservation lives on.This year the killing fields of the Amur falcons in Wokha district are a picture of contrast to last October documented in graphic detail which evoked many reactions from the Naga society. Some sections of the people opposed the outbreak of this news in the national and international media. Their argument being the report was sensational and exaggerated and that it disregarded local sentiments. In short, it ‘tarnished the image of the people’. Still others opined that such ‘exposes’ served no purpose without addressing the factors that lead to it in the first place. Then there were those who expressed remorse that killings on such a scale jarred even the most hardened hunters. What followed is turning out to prove both critics and cynics wrong.
The reaction to this news was swift and precise from the Centre. India is a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) hence not only is it significant but it is duty bound to prevent this massacre, provide safe passage, as well as draw up appropriate action plans for the long-term conservation of this bird. The massacre of the Amur falcons also took place soon after the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), of which India is the president for the next two years, the importance of CMS in conserving species, and especially in stopping bush meat hunting, had repeatedly been stressed.
It has been two weeks now since the raptors first began arriving in the state. And in what can be stated as ‘rising to the occasion’ there have been no incidents of the ugliness of killing of these mysterious creatures till date by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages in the districts of Mokokchung and Wokha.
A pro-active community and administration in Mokokchung district declared to provide a safe passage to the birds and in Wokha the combined approach of the district administration and the Wildlife wing of the Forest department to strictly monitor and implement the law in case of any trapping or killing of the bird is also proving to be effective. These efforts have also been assisted by NGO’s on the ground all working towards the common end of saving the birds by adopting different methods of creating awareness.The sustainability of these efforts will be known only after years of a meaningful and continued engagement with the community long after the birds migrate to Africa and return next year.
For now, those who indulged in the trapping, sale and consumption of these creatures by their sheer abstinence from such activities this time, must also be thanked for giving a chance at life for these birds.
We so often hear about the potential of our state be it in organic cultivation, the scope for tourism, the talented youth almost every sphere of activity we engage ourselves with is a potential simply put, talent is not lacking. So where lies the fall between potential and talent? The answer is for each individual to search.
In a few days from now the arrival of the Amur Falcons from Russia will peak over the Doyang reservoir. The spectacle that this great migration unfolds is a treat for the eye. Nagas should be so proud to be hosting this phenomenon, which has been taking place for decades, but only recently has begun to get concentrated over the Doyang reservoir after it was formed.
The significance of what is taking place in the very spot which saw massive hunting is not only relevant for the people inhabiting the nearby areas. It is a moment in time which holds out hope for conservation of our wildlife to take root. A moment in which we should see that holding the gun or the catapult or other invasive and exploitive methods practiced to indiscriminately finish off wildlife and hunger after the taste of bush meat is what makes us out of sync with the rhythm of life.
The argument that hunting is a tradition is so weak because head hunting too was also once a way of our life. We progressed from there and found ways to live amicably with each other under one banner. Similarly with innovation (for those who still argue that hunting is an economic activity) we can find alternatives to conserving life not destroying it.
Conversely, the large-scale and rampant hunting of our birds and last remnants of wildlife are indicators of not having addressed the issue of economic livelihood. Skill development for a healthy lifestyle with careful and well thought out development plans are policy driven, motivating people to work hard and honestly.
A beginning has been made in Wokha district and more importantly by the populace of the place where the Amur falcons roost. The people/hunters/dependents on the falcons till last year have broken the chain by their abstinence from trapping the birds. The migratory birds will stay on till the first week of November and will return next year. The challenge will be in filling the vacuum in the sky after the birds fly away to Africa.
It will be known then just how much of the abstinence was by compulsion or willingness to save the birds. Encouragingly this year, the small steps in creating awareness with the establishment of eco clubs for children by training the trainer, screening of films and most importantly, reaching out to understand the needs to work towards fulfilling the needs of the community created a space for dialogue and engaging with the community.
The lesson has begun and how we write the chapter on the fate of the Amur Falcons for our children and for the world lies with each one of us.
All said and done, however, is not that only the Amur Falcon is the only one deserving especial attention and love and affection. These are only migratory birds and according to our Naga tradition, we are honoured they have to pass by our land. Perhaps, the villagers did not fully understand the implications but thanks to various NGOs they eventually understood the extension of hospitality which is a Naga traditional custom.
When we consider the case, or cause, or journey, of the Amur Falcons, perhaps Siberia is not so bad a place after all because they are going back to the land of their birth although many Russian prisoners may not agree.
Nevertheless, we are honoured that these special species of birds thought it worth their while to pass through our land. Let us welcome them and bid them safe journey wherever the good Lord intended for them to go. In fact, if you want to discourage any potential Naga criminal tell him or her that we will send you to Siberia.