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Saving Amur falcons: Hunters to protectors

It’s been a month since I arrived in Wokha, a district in Nagaland that had caught the world’s attention last year with the news of large-scale Amur falcon killing. Unpacked and ready to begin working to stop the killing, I set out into the cobbled streets of Pangti – one of the three villages that had signed a declaration to protect the migratory birds this year.

Already, the Rapid Action Project (RAP) implemented jointly by the Natural Nagas and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) supported by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF – India) has had several milestones in assisting the Forest Department in efforts to save the falcons. The most significant was the signing of the MoU with the village councils of Pangti, Asshaa and Sungro, and subsequent resolution passed by them making hunting Amur falcons illegal and punishable. 

Following up on the RAP’s mandate, I have been interacting with the locals here to understand their views, spread awareness on the plight of the falcons, and why we must stop killing them.

One of the interactions with ex-hunters, who have now vowed to protect Amur falcons

Of the several meetings I have had, one has been most memorable so far. Renchio Jami is a former hunter, an expert one at that. He is taking the lead in bringing together an Amur falcon protection squad as part of the RAP. The ironic yet amazing part of this is the fact that almost the entire squad comprise former hunters, the youth who know their forest the best.

They say that the ‘time for hunting has passed, and now it’s the time for protection.’

I have met a number of villagers, many of whom were hunters, and talked to them about the importance of protecting the birds.

Othungmomo Shitrio, a teacher and land owner I met says he’s been trying to prevent the birds from being killed. “The biggest problemis that the birds used to be a large source of food and also income for some. Now that the boys making an earning from the hunting have been absorbed and provided alternative livelihoods as the protectors, things could definitely change,” he adds.

“Sustaining this requires uplifting the economic condition of the people here,” says Phankao Ngulie, Village Council Secretary, Pangti. “We are going to keep an entry fee for visitors and tourists to generate revenue for the village. We have already told neighbouring villages that we are an Amur falcon-friendly village, and anybody caught killing the birds will have to pay a fine of Rs 5000.”

The falcons are expected to arrive in Nagaland around the second week of October and will leave by early December. Only after the birds safely fly away will we be able to realise the impact of our efforts.

Still, its difficult to not be positive. After all, so many people have already changed their mind about the falcons.

Things are definitely changing around here.

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