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Plan to save falcons takes wing as Nagas, NGOs join hands

Thursday, 29 August 2013 | Anup Sharma | Guwahati

In a significant development three Naga villages in Wokha district of Nagaland have taken pledge to save Amur falcons.

The villagers have, in fact, signed an MoU with wildlife NGOs and assured that they would help the NGOs and forest authorities conserve the migratory raptor in Doyang Reservoir, its largest roosting site in the country. The villagers have also taken a resolution to penalise offenders, this year onwards.

“The Village Council Members (VCM) of Pangti, Asshaa and Sungro had signed a tri-party MoU with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Wokha-based NGO Natural Nagas, to assist the Nagaland Forest Department in stopping the wide-scale hunt which was brought to focus last year,” said WTI officials.

It may be mentioned here that tens of thousands of these raptors were reportedly hunted annually for their meat in Wokha district alone, as they crossed the region en route to Africa from Siberia. Hunters set-up huge fishing nets all over the roosting sites and the birds get tangled in the nets when they come to roost late in the evenings and when they leave the roost early in the morning. The nets are permanent and the hunters come every morning to remove the trapped birds.

“Following a report on the hunting of Amur falcons by Conservation India, a Rapid Action Project (RAP) was initiated by WTI and Natural Nagas to spread awareness on the plight of the species among the local communities,” said Steve Odyuo of Natural Nagas.He said that the Rapid Action Project, supported by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), approached the village councils for their help in preventing the hunt.

“A number of awareness meetings and discussions held over the past few months, eventually culminated in signing of the MoU this week, encompassing a wide range of issues focusing on Amur falcon conservation,” he added.The three parties will now work together to spread awareness among people through various channels. The team will also work to reduce jhumming (slash-and-burn cultivation) to protect the roosting habitat of the species.

“According to the MoU, the village committees have adopted a resolution to fine hunters Rs5,000. Besides, the village committees have also decided to engaging local youth from the three villages to keep a watch and ensure enforcement of the resolution to protect the birds every season,” he said.

“We have already begun implementing some solutions. For example, the hunt was predominantly carried out for meat, and so we have helped over 30 families that were involved in hunting the falcons, to set up poultry farms and trained them to look after the farm,” said Odyuo.

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