Nagaland welcomes its winged guests from Africa
Yaongyimchen (Nagaland) : With a dip in the mercury, the people of Nagaland's Longleng district have started welcoming their annual winged guests, the Amur falcon.
The residents of Yaongyimchen, Alayong and Sanglu villages in Longleng district have ensured the Amur falcons, during their month-long sojourn, could roost there without any threat of poaching. They are likely to stay in the area for about a month before taking off for their wintering grounds in southern Africa.
The Amur falcons are the longest travelling raptors in the world and come to these areas in Nagaland in the hundreds of thousands, say ornithologists.
Until recently, Naga tribesmen would hunt thousands of these raptors for meat. However, after a vigorous campaign by wildlife activists and some local and international NGOs, they pledged to protect the bird and since then their hunting in the area has been minimised.
"The first batch of Amur falcons has arrived at their roosting site. We have noticed about three to four lakh birds, and more will arrive in the days to come," said Alex, an intern from Dehradun's Wildlife Institute of India (WII), who is doing his internship in Longleng this year.
These amazing raptors travel one of the longest migration routes of all birds, doing up to 22,000 km in a year and they arrive in Nagaland from Siberia en route to their final destination.
"The Amur falcons take off in the third week of September and start reaching the roosting sites in Nagaland from early November. This year they have started arriving early," said Y. Nuklu Phom, Chairman and team leader of the Lemsachenlok Society, responsible for protecting the roosting sites in Yaongyimchen, Alayong and Sanglu villages.
The villages are part of the Yaongyimchen Biodiversity Conservation Zone.
"The falcons stop here for food. Flying termites and other insects come out at this time and the falcons get their nutrition from these insects before reaching their final stop," Phom said, adding that Nagaland is the final stop for these birds before reaching their final destination.
Phom and other volunteers will be on their toes for this whole period to protect the avian guests. All the volunteers will be deployed in shifts across the villages so that not a single bird can be harmed before their departure towards the end of the month.
The local community performs the conservation and protection effort entirely voluntarily and does not receive any money from the government.
"There are other roosting sites in and around Longleng area as well. However, those were not officially recognised by the Nagaland government," Phom said, adding that birds from the Arctic region have also been spotted roosting at the site.
"The Amur falcons make up most of the migratory birds but there are many others which are yet to be identified. More study is needed to identify the birds," he added.
According to conservation organisation BirdLife International, till five years ago, hundreds of thousands of migrating Amur falcons were being slaughtered annually in northeast India. Today, they are celebrated.
The falcons were trapped, slaughtered or taken to local markets alive and sold as fresh food.
Pangti, the largest hunting village in the area, recently declared a total ban on airguns -- a very significant development as it was a common hunting method, said the world leader in the bird conservation.
Furthermore, the village council put a seasonal ban on the hunting of all wild birds, fulfilling another one of the goals of the Bombay Natural History Societyin the area, it added.
(Aditya Baruah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)