The Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis) is a small bird from the raptor family (birds of prey). It travels in large numbers from Mongolia to Southern Africa, its wintering ground, completing an incredible journey which makes it the world’s longest migrating raptors. Part of its migratory route cuts through Northeast India where it stops to rest between October and November every year. Tens of thousands of these raptors congregate near the Doyang reservoir in Wokha district of Nagaland which is believed to be the single largest congregation of these passage migrants recorded anywhere in India. Another popular roosting site for these birds is Umrangso, specifically Dima Hasao district in Assam.
However, the magnificent Amur Falcon is under threat in these regions. sporadic hunting incidents have been reported with Umrangso having the highest number of hunted birds over a hundred birds killed in a day. It was revealed later that the actual figure was much higher, running up to a thousand birds a day.
As is always the case in biodiversity conservation, the support of the local community is crucial. For conservationists to face a community of traditional hunters and turn them from trapping falcons to protecting the birds in a short period of time seemed like an uphill task. To start with, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with the support of Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) India, launched a Rapid Action Project in collaboration with a local NGO to stop the hunting and ensure protection of the falcon. This project received aid from our corporate partner, Microsoft India through our payroll giving programme – Give As You Earn.
Consultative meetings were held with local authorities – district administration, forest department and irrigation department. Efforts were made to reach out to hunter groups belonging to the Karbi, Dimasa and Nepali communities. Further support was garnered from the village heads, Self Help Groups, village development committees, churches and school groups. This team of local people formed patrolling squads, engaging their young people as well.
Two months during the course of the project, the patrolling of the Amur Falcon roosting site was diligently carried out by the Blue Hill Falcon volunteers and forest and police officials. It was observed that the killing of the birds minimised drastically, as the hunters found it very difficult to get into the roosting sites. Another positive outcome of the project was the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 that empowers a magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than 10 people in an area. This was done by the district administration and the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council in Umrangso. The awareness raising that was carried out complimented the patrolling drives, and the communities learnt how protecting the birds indirectly helped secure their agricultural crops since the falcons acted as a natural pest control system, eliminating the need for expensive pesticides.
The villagers in the region now consider the falcons as the pride of Umrangso and have taken up the mantle to safeguard their winged visitors.
Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a validated NGO partner of CAF India and receives financial support from Microsoft India’s employees through our payrolll giving programme Give As You Earn.