Amur Falcons: one of the most successful conservation stories to date
Satellite-tracked Amur Falcons return successfully to the Tamenglong district in Manipur, leading to further protection and conservation efforts for migratory birds and endangered species alike.
MIGRATION AND POACHING
With the beginning of winter Amur Falcons (Falco Amurensis) flock in large numbers across northeast India, which acts as a stop-over ground in the bird’s annual migration path. Originating from Mongolia, Northeastern China and the Russian Far East, the birds fly over Asia and the Indian Ocean in order to reach their wintering grounds in Souther Africa (e.g. South Africa, Zambia, Botswana). This sums up to an estimated journey of 20,000-30,000 kilometres per year, making the Amur Falcon the world’s longest travelling migratory bird.
In spite of the Amur Falcons being a protected species under both the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS), a large number of falcons are poached for consumption or trade every year on their path to Southern Africa. Previous reports have stated that in the Pangti village in Wokha district of Nagaland, nearly 15,000 were hunted each day in 2012. The mass hunting urged the local governments to take immediate actions, and to that end they have banned the killing of the Amur Falcon.
Today, the hunting, trapping, killing and selling of Amur specimens can lead to penalties such as three years of imprisonment and steep fines. The situation also prompted conservation projects,such as the 2015 project funded by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the satellite tagging project developed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Manipur Forest Department. The efforts and actions taken have proved triumphant, as the Amur Falcons went from being mass hunted to be seen as the flagship species of conservation in a single year. What is more, the Pangti village turned from a terrifying Amur Falcon hunting ground to a safe haven with zero mortality for the bird.
Satellite monitoring is of outermost value when it comes to studying and understanding any type of migration pattern, which in turn is of extreme importance for successful conservation actions and the development of conservation management strategies. The Manipur satellite tracking programme of the Amur Falcons started in 2013, and a total of 15 birds have been tagged to this date.
On October 31st and November 1st of 2019, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Manipur Forest Department fitted five Amur Falcons with satellite radio transmitters in order to study and track their migratory route. The falcons received their names after places and rivers within the Tamenglong district in Manipur: Chiuluan, Puching, Phalong, Irang and Barak.
On 26th of October 2020, Irang has successfully returned to its roosting site in Manipur’s Tamenglong district, after travelling 29,000 kilometres in a marathon journey from its breeding site in China. A second falcon, Chiuluan, has followed Irang and returned the next day. Awangbow Newmai, Environment and Climate Change minister stated that:
The successful return of two satellite-tagged Amur Falcons has put Manipur on the global map of wildlife conservation efforts […] the state has shown the effort to protect and provide safe bases to the migratory bird Amur Falcons.
This is a remarkable achievement, as the success story of the Amur Falcons not only leads to better protection and safe passage during the bird’s migration, but also puts the basis for other conservation efforts to be carried out for endangered animals and other migratory birds alike (e.g. the Hornbill project, the Tiger project).
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