Amur falcons, from killing to love in India

This film, from Conservation India, says about itself:

The Race to Save the Amur Falcon

17 April 2017

“In a world where conservation problems usually go from bad to worse, the campaign to save the Amur falcon serves as a beacon of hope. I was so inspired by this story that I wanted to share it with the rest of the world”, says the filmmaker, Shekar Dattatri.

Around a remote reservoir in India’s far northeast, a small team of conservationists discovered something that was both enthralling and alarming. During a biodiversity survey in the winter of 2012, they stumbled upon vast flocks of Amur falcons, the likes of which they had never seen before. At the same time, they also witnessed local hunters capture and slaughter tens of thousands of the little raptors for consumption and sale.

When the horrific story first broke on Conservation India, a frontline partner in the campaign, it caused shock and dismay among conservationists around the world.

Fortunately, thanks to close cooperation between NGOs, local authorities and the local community, the falcons were granted a reprieve, and now enjoy a safe passage through Nagaland during their incredible migration from Russia and China to South Africa.

“We are inundated with bad news every day, which makes it even more important that we document and share success stories”, says the filmmaker.

From BirdLife:

29 Jan 2018

From slaughter to spectacle – education inspires locals to love Amur Falcon

Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of migrating Amur Falcons were being slaughtered annually in northeast India. Today, they are celebrated.

By Alex Dale

Amur Falcons Falco amurensis are incredible long-distance migrants. During their travels from their breeding grounds in north-east Asia, hundreds of thousands of them cross the Indian Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean to their wintering grounds in southern Africa. However, in November 2012, an estimated 100,000 falcons didn’t make it past Nagaland, a state in north-east India. They were trapped, slaughtered or taken to local markets alive and sold as fresh food.

The shocking news spread quickly across the world thanks to a video put together by the campaigning organisation Conservation India. The video showed how local hunters were using huge nylon nets across the Amur Falcon’s forest roosting sites, capturing them indiscriminately in enormous quantities. The appalling scale of the killing prompted the Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India) to contact the Indian Minister for Environment and Forests and the Chief Minister of Nagaland.

Simultaneously, BirdLife set up an emergency fund to help BNHS coordinate a series of actions in order to halt the massacre. Many BirdLife Partners such as BirdLife South Africa and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) also lent their voice to the campaign and received international support. The then-Minister for the Environment Jayanthi Natarajan personally intervened, which led to the destruction of nets and to the release of some of the captive falcons that were still alive.

The tragedy was stopped that year, but BNHS needed to put steps in place to ensure that future crises would be prevented. Supported by the emergency appeal, BNHS coordinated a widespread programme of action, working with Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust. Field teams were established to monitor Amur Falcons at their roosting sites and to directly intervene to prevent the atrocities from happening ever again. Locals were employed to patrol the Doyang Reservoir, one of the largest roosting sites for the Amurs. The Government’s Forest Department also joined the patrolling team, who acted as conservation ambassadors within the local community.

After a process of consultation, BNHS decided to focus on natural history education as a means of advocacy. Several eco-clubs were set up, using a unique model. Local adults from Doyang, Pangti, Asha and Sungro villages were trained and employed as teachers, and young students between the ages of eight and 17 years were given free environmental education. The aim was to teach children about the wonders of bird migration and the importance of keeping certain wild bird populations intact. To this day, BNHS also runs eco-clubs independently in Jalukie, Lilien, Bongkolong and Ahthibung villages in Nagaland, resulting in more than 500 students being tutored.

BNHS is also supporting natural history outreach and advocacy in Manipur through the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN). The Amur Falcon dance festivals held in that state are the first of their kind. As a result, Tamenglong in Manipur, which sees a very large congregation of birds every year, has also passed a resolution to stop hunting Amur Falcons through their village council.

This video from India says about itself:


19 November 2017

GOLF FIELD, UMRANGSO, NOVEMBER 19: With a motive of spreading awareness regarding protection & conserving the Siberian Amur Falcon visiting Umrangso and for promoting tourism, North Cachar Hills Autonomous Counil under the leadership of CEM Debolal Garlosa is hosting the 3rd edition of the Falcon Festival at Golf Field, Umrangso from November 18, 2017 onwards.

On the opening day Chief Guest MLA BB Hagjer along with CEM Debolal Garlosa, EMs of NCHAC, DC Dibyajyoti Hazarika, guests and general public have visited in and around Umrangso for bird watching.

MLA Hagjer has inaugurated the festival by lightning of lamp where he was accompanied by CEM, EMs & DC; followed by cultural dances by different tribes.

The first day of the festival was scheduled with a battle of bands and beauty contest which will be continued for the next day. The winner of the battle of bands will be awarded with Rs 1 Lakh and beauty contest with Rs 1.50 Lakh.

Amur falcons, winged guests from Siberia and China, also stop over at Umrangso en route to Africa. The Amur falcon, a small raptor of the falcon family, covers one of the longest migration routes and arrives in Assam from eastern Siberia and northern China.

The winged guests, called daopana in Dimasa dialect and kalengmaha in Karbi, stop in the Umrangso area between October and November every year.

The BirdLife article continues:

Tackling the underlying causes of illegal killing in communities is no easy feat. Yet the following year, Amur Falcons were granted safe passage through north-east India, thanks to the joint action of locals, government and NGOs. As attitudes changed in the space of a single year, not a single Amur Falcon was trapped during and since the 2013 winter migration. The hundreds of thousands of Amur Falcons that visited the Doyang Reservoir that year were finally able to do so in peace.

“We have come a very long way from working in a state which has no conservation history to trying to advocate for wildlife in a sensitive manner, without hurting local sentiment”, says Neha Sinha, Advocacy and Policy Officer, BNHS, and Principle Investigator of the Amur Falcon Project. “One of the reasons we decided to impart natural history education is because education itself is empowering. We have not told the locals what to do. We have shown them Amur Falcon migration maps, falcon biology and stories, and inspired an absolute dedication to the community’s education and skill development, and they decided to give up hunting. For this, we have the community to thank.”

Not a single Amur Falcon was trapped during the 2013 winter migration

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. Furthermore, the village council put a seasonal ban on all wild bird hunting, fulfilling another one of BNHS’ project goals in the area.

Locals have been exemplary in giving up their hunting practices. Today the Doyang Reservoir is recognised as a stopover for up to a million Amur Falcons every year, a spectacle that all locals, from government officials to former hunters, can all enjoy together.

This article is brought to you by the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

We are grateful to the many BirdLife donors who have supported this action and, in particular, Per Undeland, through the BirdLife Fund for the Conservation of Threatened Indian Birds.

Good Indian Amur falcon news

This video from Souith Africa says about itself:

20 Sep 2013

Every year thousands of Amur falcons leave the Mongolian winter and embark on one of the longest non-stop raptor migration known to man, flying down the east coast of Africa to roost in summery Southern Africa. These birds, with a weight equal to four slices of bread, face a 14500km journey, overcoming strong winds, bad weather and other aerial predators. The journey even includes a 2500-3100km leg over the sea which takes two to three days of non-stop flight.

Meet Falcon 95773, one of 10 falcons fitted with GPS trackers in 2010. She was picked up by raptor enthusiasts on 10th January 2013 in Newcastle amongst a roost of many thousands of birds. Until recently the migratory patterns of these birds were relatively unknown to science. Raptor 95773 was the only one of the initial 10 to return safely to South Africa.

This is largely because of the killing of raptors for bush meat that happen every year in India which have resulted in 140000 falcon deaths over the past five years. India is a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and is duty bound to protect this species and provide a safe passage through the country. An international outcry over the killings prompted the government to step in.

From BirdLife:

Action for Amur Falcons brings hope for an end to hunting in Nagaland

By Jim Lawrence, Fri, 29/11/2013 – 14:41

Last year’s news of the massacre of Amur Falcons in India shocked the world. BirdLife’s Indian Partner BNHS moved immediately to mobilise a response. The trapping was stopped, nets destroyed and arrests made, although not before terrible damage had been done.

This year, the generous response to our international appeal has enabled BNHS, with the support of the BirdLife Partnership, to organise a comprehensive programme to keep the falcons safe around the Doyang reservoir, where they roost during their stopover. The programme has mainly been implemented by a local NGO, Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust, working with the Nagaland Forest Department.

As a result, not a single Amur Falcon was trapped during the 2013 autumn migration. Attitudes have changed so much in the space of a single year that the Amur Falcons are now treated, in the words of Nagaland’s Chief Minister, as “esteemed guests”.

A year ago we brought you the shocking news of a hunting massacre taking place in Nagaland, India, which BNHS (BirdLife in India) had been alerted to by colleagues from the campaigning NGO – Conservation India.

Tens of thousands of migrating Amur Falcons Falco amurensis were being illegally trapped on the roost at a reservoir at Doyang and then being taken to local markets alive, or killed and smoked, for sale as food.

Online news articles and a graphic video of the atrocity were quick to spread via social media. Many individuals from around the world responded generously to the international appeal we launched.

We are delighted to report today that this appeal has been an outstanding success.

Robust conservation has been put in place with the funds raised and actions taken to ensure the prevention of illegal hunting of Amur Falcons this year have been completely successful. An innovative long-term community outreach campaign has also been initiated that has been received very well locally.

This year, the hundreds of thousands of Amur Falcons that visited Doyang reservoir were able to do so in peace. They have now passed safely through Northern India and continued their migration on to Southern Africa.

The BirdLife International Partnership would like to thank all who joined forces to make this happen!

“From an estimated 100,000 falcons killed last year, none have been trapped in nets this year. The transformation is extraordinary and the change has come very quickly. But we also have to guard against this rapid change getting reversed. We needed to also set up solutions which are sustainable and of practical use to the community,” said Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, BNHS. “I would like to thank Nagaland Forest Department, the people of Nagaland, the Government of India, BirdLife International and all the NGOs working on this issue for this conservation success”

Last year BNHS took action from the outset and many other BirdLife Partners quickly showed their support by lending their authority to our international campaign too.

Following a call from Dr. Rahmani, Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan – the Indian Minister for Environment & Forests – personally intervened and the Indian Forest Department and District Administration were also swift to act. The result was that nets were destroyed, captured birds were released, the sale of falcons was stopped and arrests were made.

The key next step was to put plans in place to ensure the atrocity would not be repeated again this year.

Preparation for the return of the Amur Falcons to Nagaland this autumn has been comprehensive. Supported by our appeal, BNHS has coordinated a widespread campaign of action that has been primarily implemented locally by Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust. Others supporting the campaign include WCS India, Raptor Research and Conservation Foundation and WildLife Conservation Trust.

Specific actions taken this year, enabled by BirdLife’s appeal, have included the employment of staff to patrol the Doyang area and to act as ambassadors within the local community. The local Government Forest Department has also been patrolling the roost areas.

As a result of the advocacy campaign, The Deputy Commissioner of the Wokha Police committed his forces to respond as needed and enforce the law rapidly when necessary. Local government also issued a timely anti-hunting order.

The spectacular site at Doyang Reservoir is now recognised as a stopover for up to a million Amur Falcons each year and will soon be declared an Important Bird Area.

Long-term community action plans have also been established in Nagaland through the church, schools and other local groups.

An innovative PR campaign “Friends of the Amur Falcon” was developed to galvanise community action throughout the region supported by a comprehensive set of eye-catching promotional and educational materials.

As part of the initiative, locals from Doyang, Pangti, Asha and Sungro villages in Nagaland were employed to start eco-clubs and target students with a powerful conservation message.

The local outreach activities began in August with a ‘train the trainer’ programme for teachers and church leaders and the eco-club programme for children soon followed. The community received this activity enthusiastically with more than 70 children enrolling and actively participating.

“When we were starting out, we were told this was a very difficult part of the world to work in. There had been virtually no history of conservation action in the areas we worked in. But we found that in the students we have real hope for creating conservation ambassadors. Some of them have never been exposed to Nagaland and India’s magnificent natural history. They are genuinely impressed with it and here is a long-term hope for change,” says Neha Sinha, Advocacy and Policy officer, BNHS.

One particular component of the eco-clubs that caught the children’s imagination and proved very popular was the issuing of an ‘Amur Ambassador’ Passport. Each child received this as evidence of their personal commitment to protect Amur Falcons in their community.

Additionally to their outreach in Nagaland, BNHS has extended its advocacy to several villages in nearby Assam, which they discovered had also seen some hunting of Amur Falcons. These villages include Habang, which is next to Habang IBA—chosen for another congregation of Amur Falcons, as well as the nearby Umro village, on the Assam-Meghalaya border.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio lent his weight to the campaign when he made a surprise visit to Doyang reservoir this November. As well as witnessing the spectacle of the migrating Amur Falcons first hand, he met students and members of the eco clubs there.

“The state government is committed to end the unfortunate killings of the migratory Amur falcons and fully support the efforts of NWBCT and other NGOs to educate the people about these migratory birds and to give them a safe passage through Nagaland,” he said during his visit.

Prior to his visit to Doyang, the Chief Minister had asked Nagas to “extend hospitality” towards their ‘esteemed guests’- the Amur Falcons – via a prominent poster campaign displayed on billboards throughout the state.

The outreach activities coordinated by BNHS this year will be continued in 2014 with the hope that a gradual change can be brought about in the region and help all in the community there live in greater harmony with their environment.