In October, huge numbers of Amur falcons arrive in northeast India from Siberia en route to their final destination — Somalia, Kenya and South Africa. This handsome little raptor has one of the longest migration routes of all birds.
- Members of Conservation India, learned that thousands of Amurs were being hunted annually on the banks of the Doyang reservoir during their passage through Wokha district, Nagaland. They traveled to the area to see the extent of the harvest and took photographs.
They saw thousands of amurs on the transmission lines along the mountain ridge. They seemed to travel overnight and reach Doyang during the early hours. They use the wires for resting and hawking insects. The birds spend the day on the transmission wires then descend to forested patches along the banks of the reservoir to roost.
- The hunters exploit this behavior and set-up huge fishing nets over the roosting sites.The birds get caught in the nets in large numbers when they come to roost during late evenings or when they leave the roost early in the morning.
Nets were set over the entire roosting area giving virtually no safe area for the birds.
During peak migration 12,000 to 14,000 birds are caught every day.
Assuming just 10-days of peak migration through Doyang, this suggests 120,000-140,000 birds removed from the population every year, and more if the migration lasts longer or if there are more hunting sites in the area (neighboring villages, districts, etc.). This number doesn’t include birds potentially killed using guns, catapults, etc. — a widespread and accepted practice amongst Nagas.
- The captured birds are kept alive in mosquito nets or cane baskets so they can be exported alive to the customers and markets. From cane baskets, the birds are transferred to poles for carrying into villages and towns. There they are killed, plucked and smoked for sale.
- Over the course of the day, 12 hunters were observed on the main road carrying between 60-200 birds per head totaling over a 1000 dead birds carried to their homes or local markets and even door-to-door selling.
The local villages cannot consumer the vast number of birds that are killed. It remains a mystery where the bulk of the birds go. The investigators were told by hunters that pick-up trucks from distant areas take away many of them. What happens to them and who is behind this trade is unknown. To formulate a policy to stop this wanton harvest of wildlife, it is critical to understand where the bulk of the birds go.
This is probably the single largest congregation of Amur falcons recorded anywhere in the world and it is tragic that they meet such a fate. Government officials say they have committed to put an end to the slaughter and have initiated specific action steps.
Conservation India continues to monitor and report on the situation. It is significant to note that India, as a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), 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.
All images taken on Oct 21 & 22, 2012, by:
• Shashank Dalvi • Bano Haralu • Rokohebi Kuotsu • Ramki Sreenivasan