Imphal: The Manipur government is mulling to impose a ban on the use of guns in Tamenglong district after an amur falcon, which was recently satellite-tagged and named ‘Manipur’ as part of the Amur Falcon Dance Festival 2018, was found killed by unknown miscreants at Kebuching bordering Tamenglong and Noney districts of the state.
Announcing this, state minister for forests and environment Thounaojam Shyamkumar on Saturday said: “Saddened over the incident, we are planning to discuss about the cancellation of gun licence n the Cabinet meet soon.”
Weighing on average of 160 grams, amur falcons are long-distance migratory birds and arrive in the Northeast, mainly in Manipur and Nagaland, on their south-bound migration during October from their breeding grounds in northern China, eastern Mongolia and far-east Russia en-route to their wintering grounds in South Africa. The one-way journey from their breeding to wintering grounds via India is about 20,000 km and they do this twice a year.
On November 4, a team of officials led by Suresh Kumar of the Wildlife Institute of India, the state forest department under DFO Arun RS and biologists from Hungary captured five amur falcons using canopy mist-nets at a community forest area of Chiuluan village along the Barak river in Tamenglong district.
Following assessment for body and feather condition, two fittest birds out of five were attached with GPS satellite tags and released in the morning of November 5. While the male bird was named ‘Manipur’, the female one was called ‘Tamenglong’. The satellite tagging of the two birds were informed to the villagers of Tamenglong on the day of the ‘4th Amur Falcon Dance Festival’ held in the district around that time.
On November 8, the Tamenglong district administration had also issued an order strictly prohibiting use of air guns along Irang river near Gwangram, Puching, Rangkhung and Taobam villages.
Amur falcons spend three to four weeks in many parts of Manipur to build fat reserves by foraging on termites that emerge during this time. As a result, this stop-over site in Northeast becomes extremely crucial to the amur falcons as they need to make a five to six days of non-stop flight across peninsular India and then make a sea crossing over the Arabian Sea to their next stop-over site in Somalia.
Terming the hunting incident as very unfortunate and shocking, the minister further stated that the state forest department, with active support from a team of experts, is on a mission to save and monitor the movements of the migratory bird. He added that the satellite instrument was handed over to the state forest department in Noney.
Stating that stricter rules and intense awareness campaigns are needed at this moment, he said those involved in the incident will not be spared. “The state forest department officials have been continuously involved in awareness campaigns collaborating with the local leaders and clubs. We seek active participation from the media in the campaign,” the minister said.
DFO Tamenglong Arun RS also said that following the tracking data analysis, it was found that soon after release of ‘Manipur’, the male amur falcon moved to a site 3 km southeast of Punglam village along the Irang river where it roosted. The next two days, ‘Manipur’ foraged in around the Irang river between Punglam – Kabui Khullen – Nagaching – Bhalok and returned to roost along the Irang river, he added.
“’Tamenglong’, the female amur falcon moved to the Barak river roost site and remained in the area for the next two days. On November 7, it arrived at the Irang river site and roosted, where Manipur was also roosting. Tamenglong also foraged in the area between Punglam – Kabui Khullen – Nagaching and returned every day to roost at the Irang river site,” the DFO added.
Senior scientist Suresh Kumar said that each satellite equipment costs Rs 1.5 lakh. An additional Rs 1 lakh to retrieve the data of the journey of the bird. He said that a series of awareness campaigns is needed so that people do not hunt the bird.
Due to the abundant termite and other insect food available to the amur falcons in Manipur and Nagaland, it is now learnt that almost all of the world’s amur falcons pass through this region. To support the conservation efforts initiated by the state forest department for protection of the amur falcons during their migratory stop-over in Tamenglong district, a satellite tracking programme to understand the movements of the birds was taken up.