GPS tagged Amur Falcon ‘Manipur’ hunted in TML


IMPHAL, 10th Nov: In a rather emotional development post GPS tagging of two Amur Falcon birds by the state forest department, the male partner of a couple Amur Falcon birds, which migrated from Mongolia after flying more than 20,000 km of distance, has been found killed at Kebuching village of Tamenglong district leaving the female partner alone. Informing this to media persons at his new secretariat office here on Saturday, forest and environment minister Th Shyamkumar said that Amur Falcons often migrated from mainly Australia and Siberia to Tamenglong, where they stay for about three weeks before departing again. With the vast forest cover of the state, Manipur is on the global map of natural forest reserves. On November 4, a team led by Dr Suresh Kumar of Wildlife Institute of India and Hungarian raptor biologist Peter along with officials of forest department, Tamenglong including DFO Arun captured five Amur Falcons using canopy mist-nets at a community forest area of Chiuluan village along Barak river in Tamenglong district. Following assessment of body and feather condition, two fittest birds out of five were attached with GPS satellite tags and released in the morning of November 5. The male bird was named ‘Manipur’ while the female as ‘Tamenglong’. The satellite tagging of the two Amur Falcons were informed to villagers of Tamenglong on the day the ‘4th Amur Falcon Festival’ was celebrated in the district. On November 8, Tamenglong district administration issued an order strictly prohibiting use of air guns along Irang river near Gwangram, Puching, Rangkhung and Taobam villages and asking the public not to kill Amur Falcon. Taking serious note of the incident, minister Shyamkumar appealed to the people of the state, especially those living in Tamenglong to refrain from killing wild animals or birds while adding that appropriate actions would be taken up against those found involved in wildlife poaching. He also said that human being cannot survive alone without the useful contribution of the wildlife. According to DFO Tamenglong Arun, analysis of the tracking data showed that immediately after release, ‘Manipur’ moved to a site 3 km southeast of Punglam village along Irang River where it roosted. Thereafter, for the next two days, ‘Manipur’ foraged around Irang river in between Punglam, Kabui Khullen, Nagaching, Bhalok and returned to its roost. On the other hand, upon releasing, ‘Tamenglong’ moved to Barak River roost site and remained in the area for two days. On November 7, ‘Tamenglong’ arrived at Irang river site and roosted there where Manipur was also roosting. Thereafter, like ‘Manipur’, ‘Tamenglong’ also foraged in the area between Punglam, Kabui Khullen, Nagaching and returned every day to roost at Irang river site.
Unfortunately in the evening of November 9, DFO Tamenglong received information about a falcon with a satellite tag hunted at Kebuching village. The tag was then handed over to the forest department official in Noney and it was found to be the one attached to ‘Manipur’. So far, officials have not been able to identify the hunter who killed the male Amur Falcon.
Wildlife Institute of India’s Dr Suresh Kumar said that the tracking device costs Rs 1.5 lakh and tracking their movement costs Rs 1 lakh, which puts the total cost of tracking a bird to Rs 2.5 lakh.
He said that a series of awareness campaign is needed so that people do not hunt the bird. Amur Falcons weighing on an average 160 grams are long-distance migratory birds and arrives in North East India 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 to their wintering grounds in South Africa. The one-way journey from their breeding to wintering grounds via India is about 20,000 kms and the birds do this twice a year.
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 North East India becomes extremely crucial to the Amur Falcons as they need to make a five to six day-long non-stop flight across the Peninsular India and then make a sea crossing over the Arabian Sea to their next stop-over site in Somalia.
Due to the abundant termite and other insect food available for 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 Amur Falcons during their migratory stop-over in Tamenglong district, a satellite tracking programme to study the movements of the birds was taken up, he said, while urging all not to kill the bird.
Meanwhile, Tamenglong MLA Samuel Jendai expressed shock on learning that one of the recently GPS tagged Amur Falcons was killed by some hunters near Irang River. “It is time that we learn to love our wild animals and birds,” he said in function held Saturday at Chiuluan (Khonjaron) village in Tamenglong district.
The celebration was organised in connection with renovation of the village Raenggan (citadel/fort) of Chiuluan Peidai (Village court). He also urged Chiuluan village authority to preserve and protect forest and wildlife. People in Tamenglong town solely depend on Chiuluan forest for water source. Chiuluan is one of the blessed villages because the migrated birds Amur Falcon visit this forest, he said and appealed to all to take up initiative for forming ‘Save Amur Falcon Club’. He also said that if they were committed to protect and preserve forest and wildlife, he may construct a swimming pool and a guest house in the village. Some of the villagers immediatey responded to the call of the MLA for saving the migratory birds and surrendered/deposited their hunting rifles to the village authority as a mark of pledging to protect the migratory birds.

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