Amur falcons: The ‘esteemed guests’ of Nagaland
Pangti village is the largest village in Wokha district of Nagaland, but its name is known and famous for a different reason. It is one of the first villages in Wokha district that took the step of conserving the Amur falcons, earning the prestigious Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Earth Heroes Award, 2014 in "Save the species award" category, and the Balipara Foundation Annual Award, which is an inter-disciplinary annual award presented to a government or non-governmental organization whose contribution to conservation of wildlife has gone beyond the call of duty and which has achieved success in the area of nature conservation. The village council of Pangti has also taken a pledge to ensure that not one bird would be harmed during their stay for two months before taking flight to South Africa.
The Amur falcon 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. These birds arrive from Mongolia, Siberia, Northern China and Japan and would stay in Wokha district of Nagaland and the adjoining areas for two months and then fly to South Africa which includes a three-and-a-half-day non-stop flight across the Arabian Sea after researchers satellite-tagged three of the birds before taking off for their journey. This was documented for the first time in 2013.
Wokha district have been, for several years, a pit-stop for the Amur falcons en route to South Africa. During the first few years, tens of thousands of Amur falcons were captured and consumed by the people with reports estimating that at least 120,000 birds or even higher were killed. The government along with people of Wokha district has been taking the initiative to protect these birds from getting slaughtered during their migration. Conservation groups, measures and steps were made and taken to help protect these migratory birds. These efforts resulted in near-zero casualty since 2013.
Every year, during the migration period, the people in Wokha district prepares to welcome not only their avian guests but also hundreds of tourists and bird-watchers from different parts of the world. In 2014, at least 2,000 tourists including foreigners visited Wokha to watch the falcons. The Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT) for instance is planning to help villagers start home-stay facilities for tourists.
The Amur falcons are now treated as economic propositions and the state forest department has appointed village councils, students and women's groups, head-mans, educational institutions, government officials and even the army and para-military companies posted there to make sure that the birds pass through Nagaland safely.
In an attempt to spread awareness about the Amur Falcons, the longest travelled migratory birds, Assam is holding a festival called Falcon Festival which is to be held at Umrangso, Dima Hasao on 30th October and 1st November 2015. The fest has been organized by Blue Hills Society in association with Wildlife Trust of India, Charities Aid Foundation, North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council, Department of Forest (Assam) and other local bodies. The festival will hold concerts from bands like Celestial Sphere, Sot Recho,Maestro, Soul 3 and other local bands followed by EDM night and other cultural activities and cultural shows during the two days event. Tours will be conducted for tourists to see the Amur Falcons roost and food fest, fashion shows, art displays by local artists will be some of the other attraction in this festival.