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BROCHURE RACK

120,000 Amur falcons massacred in 1 week in India

09/11/2012 08:44:15 birds/2012_july/conservation_india_amur_hunters Huge massacre of migratory falcons an annual event in India

Our thanks to by Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan of Conservation India for most of the information and all of the images for this article.

Amur falcons migrate from southern Africa to Mongolia and eastern China, and back, every year, an extraordinary round-trip of some 14,000 miles.

However as many as 100,000 falcons (some estimate even more) are killed on their migration when they reach India's north-eastern state of Nagaland. Witnesses claim that tens of thousands of Amur falcons are being trapped and slaughtered every day during their migration.

Some 120,000 Amur falcons are killed in 1 week every year in India. Photo courtesy of Conservation India.

Some 120,000 Amur falcons are killed in 1 week every year in India. Photo courtesy of Conservation India.

According to Conservation India: "We estimate that during the peak migration 12,000 - 14,000 birds are being hunted for consumption and commercial sale every day. We further estimate that a mind-boggling 120,000 to 140,000 birds are being slaughtered in Nagaland every year during their passage through the state."
This is probably the single largest congregation of Amur falcons recorded anywhere in the world and it is tragic that they meet such a fate.

It is significant to note that India, as a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), is duty bound to prevent this massacre, provide safe passage, as well as draw up appropriate action plans for the long-term conservation of this bird. In the recently concluded Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), of which India is the president for the next two years, the importance of CMS in conserving species, and especially in stopping bushmeat hunting, was repeatedly stressed.

In October this year, a group from Conservation India travelled to Doyang Reservoir in Wokha district of Nagaland to check out information that thousands of falcons were being hunted annually on the banks of the Doyang Reservoir during their passage through Nagaland. The trip confirmed our worst fears.

Amur falcons roosting on the power lines of Nagaland in India. Photo courtesy of Conservation India.

Amur falcons roosting on the power lines of Nagaland in India. Photo courtesy of Conservation India.

Number of Amurs around Doyang
Almost immediately, we saw thousands of amurs on the transmission lines along the mountain ridge. They seemed to travel overnight and reach Doyang during the early hours. They seemed to use these wires for resting and hawking insects. (Amur falcons are known to be wholly insectivorous).

Here we estimated ~6000 Amur Falcons at 0840hrs. This count was only from the wires visible to us, and the wires stretched for hundreds of metres in each direction. The next morning, at 0630hrs we counted ~12,000 birds on the same wires and ~23,000 birds flying above the Doyang Reservoir. Later at 0830hrs the birds were seen using transmission lines. The numbers dropped considerably and by 1230hrs, very few falcons were seen on the wires.

Vast nets are spread across the Amur falcons roosting sites. The falcons, once captured are mostly sold alive for food, but some are killed and cooked locally. Photo courtesy of Conservation India.

Vast nets are spread across the Amur falcons roosting sites. The falcons, once captured are mostly sold alive for food, but some are killed and cooked locally. Photo courtesy of Conservation India.

Hunters with 1000 dead birds
Over the course of the day, we observed 12 hunters on the main road carrying between 60-200 birds per head totalling over a 1000 dead birds carried to their homes or local markets and even door-to-door selling.

It is not fully understood what the market is for this many birds. They are killed to be eaten, but these numbers vastly outweigh any demand that could be generated from the local villages, so there must be some external demand to account for a massacre on this scale.

Recommendations
Conservation India have made a number of recommendations, to be implemented at local, regional and national level, to put an end to this slaughter.  Click here to see their recommendations.

Amur falcon migration
Migrating Amur falcons leave their Asian breeding range and travel to northeast India and Bangladesh, where they fatten up while staging for overland flights over peninsular India. Subsequently, they undertake the longest regular overwater passage of any raptor, crossing over the Indian Ocean between Western India and tropical East Africa, a journey of more than 4,000 km, which also includes nocturnal flight. This species is finely attuned to the strong monsoon tailwinds, which results in its late arrival in eastern Africa in autumn. Migrants arrive in their southern African winter range in November-December and depart by early May. This species is an "elliptical migrant", and its return route back to its breeding range is largely overland and to the north and west of its southbound route.

Amur falcons that have been captured in mist nets awaiting shipment. Photo courtesy of Conservation India 

 

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