By: Staff Writer, 4 Oct, 2018
The Amur falcon is small, about the size of a pigeon. It’s a little grey raptor, with beady eyes and a yellow beak. Every winter, tens of thousands of these birds make the long journey from Russia to southern Africa, migrating south for the summer. Along their way, they make a pit stop in India – in Nagaland, specifically.
From mid-October to early November, you’re likely to spot hordes of these birds around the Doyang reservoir in Nagaland. “It is around this water body that the falcons come to roost en route their migration to Africa,” says Ramki Sreenivasan, wildlife photographer and co-founder of website Conservation India. “This congregation is the world’s largest of any raptor.”
But it wasn’t always a sunny story. Prior to 2013, the Lothas, one of Nagaland’s many tribal communities, hunted the Amur falcons for food and for sale as food. Each day, thousands were trapped in nets along the reservoir. It was a source of income for the locals – a Mint Lounge story estimates earnings of around Rs 25,000- Rs 35,000 from hunting falcons in 2012 – but it was also a brutal sight, one that alarmed conservationists.
Fortunately, things are better now. Conservation initiatives and wildlife education programmes by the state government, various NGOs and the Wildlife Trust of India have made the locals more aware.
“Not a single bird has been hunted since 2013,” Sreenivasan says. “The Amur Falcon Roosting Areas Union (AFRAU), a community-led initiative, has created check posts in the area surrounding the Doyang reservoir and collects an entry fee. There are community-run homestays; ex-hunters work as guides and boatmen.”
While tourism for the migration has benefitted the locals in some situations, it’s not all about the money. Sreenivasan highlights that the Lotha tribe now takes pride in the arrival of the falcons, treating them as guests and organising football tournaments and festivals. It’s a classic predator-turned-protector story – one that’s ought to be celebrated. Go see the birds before they resume their journey towards Africa!
This November, travel to Nagaland with Hoshner Reporter and Ambika Vishwanath of The reDiscovery Project to see the Amur falcons in real life. Details here!