DIMAPUR, Nov 25 – An international team of ornithologists has declared Nagaland as the “Falcon capital of the world” after estimating that about one million Amur Falcons roost in the State during the small aerial predators’ annual migration on way to South Africa. The phenomenon is declared the largest in the world.An international team of scientists from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Wildlife Institute of India, Convention on Migratory Species Office, United Nations Environment Programme and Environment Agency undertook a joint scientific mission to satellite-tag the Amur Falcons in Nagaland, currently roosting in Doyang under Wokha district.
Nick Williams, Head of the Coordinating Unit of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MoU), said “This is by far the largest and most spectacular roost of any species of Falcon ever seen anywhere in the world; it represents a unique and irreplaceable part of the rich biodiversity of Nagaland.”
Scientists Dr Nick Williams, Dr Peter Fehervani and Dr Szabolcs and Dr R Suresh visited Nagaland during November 3-7.
On November 6, three Amur Falcons – named ‘Naga’, ‘Wokha’ and ‘Pangti’ – were satellite tagged and released. Naga has a colour ring number ‘KAM’ C56801’. Wokha has colour ring ‘KCM C56802’ while Pangti has a colour ring ‘KFM C56803’.
The three birds were fitted with satellite tags with antenna and with solar panels on the back of the bird. The solar panels weigh only five grams. 28 birds were tagged with rings and released, a press release received here on Friday said. The tagged birds’ migration will be monitored through satellite by a website in Hungary.
Principal Chief Conservator and head of Forest department M Lokeswra Rao stated that the Pangti villagers helped the team in trapping the birds for tagging. He expressed happiness that the people who once hunted the birds have now turned conservationists.
“This is one of the big examples of how community involvement will help conservation,” he said. This is the first time the Amur Falcons are being satellite-tagged and released here. With this, Nagaland has entered the international map of ‘global conservation’, he added.
The plight of the Amur Falcons in Nagaland came to fore when Conservation India and its associates at Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust exposed the killings in October 2012 and set off a campaign to conserve the Amur Falcons – a small but long-distance migratory bird of prey that breeds in Eastern Russia and China. The small predator annually flies around 22,000 km all the way across Asia, over the Indian Ocean to wintering grounds in Southern Africa.
Following the revelations, a wide range of measures to implement and enforce pre-existing legislation to protect the Amur Falcons was put in place. An armed Forest Protection Force was immediately deployed that seized nets and released any captured live Falcons that were found. This year, the force has been patrolling the roosting areas every day since the Falcons arrived three weeks ago.
The Falcons spend about one month in the State every autumn where they feast on insects to gain fitness for their long onward journey to Africa. The recent scientific project aims to provide new insights into the ecology of the Amur Falcons, particularly during its short stay in Nagaland and subsequent travel across India. It should also provide the Nagaland people with knowledge about the origins of their annual Falcon visitors.