15 Nov 2012

Help required to end hunting massacre in Nagaland, India

An adult male Amur Falcon hangs helplessly in a hunter's net (Conservation India)
An adult male Amur Falcon hangs helplessly in a hunter's net (Conservation India)
By Jim Lawrence

On November 1st, national online campaigning organisation Conservation India broke the shocking news of an appalling massacre of thousands of migrating Amur Falcons Falco amurensis that had recently been trapped for sale in the remote state of Nagaland in the north-east of India. Taking advantage of the falcons' habit of concentrating in huge numbers during their migration, local hunters have been spreading nets across vast areas of the birds' forest roost sites, capturing them en masse and then keeping the often-injured Amurs alive, until they might be killed and sold as fresh food. The recent trapping and slaughter appears to have been taking place on an 'industrial scale' and unless stopped will clearly have a devastating affect on the birds' global population at these unsustainable levels.

Massive nylon nets set to trap Amur Falcons as they fly in to their forest roost sites


  Please note this video that documents the massacre contains some extremely disturbing footage.

The Amur Falcon Massacre, Doyang, Nagaland from Conservation India on Vimeo. Such is the reach of today's social media that this emotive story went viral within hours and during the next few days, news quickly spread around the world shocking all who read about the Amurs' plight. Conservation India's highly effective campaign has already helped galvanise local, national and international action.

Trapped Amur Falcons await their fate


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Today we invite you to now help us stop this killing forever by donating to an emergency fund that will help Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India) coordinate the action that is required to ensure this massacre will never happen again. If you are moved by this issue please don't turn aside - donating now will make a huge difference to the future of these birds and every little helps. Donate with JustGiving and PayPal Vital actions that will be funded this way include establishing field teams to monitor the Amur Falcons at their roost sites, direct intervention to prevent further illegal hunting of all species and the establishment of a sustained education and engagement programme within communities in Nagaland and other north-eastern states of India, where illegal and indiscriminate hunting is sadly still prevalent.

A hunter laden with illegally captured and still live Amur Falcons


What is being done BirdLife International has already taken swift action to address this hunting massacre on several fronts. As well as contributing to the preparation and initial release of the campaign story by Conservation India, Bombay Natural History Society took immediate action when they were alerted to events - with their CEO, Dr. Asad Rahmani immediately writing to Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan - the Indian Minister for Environment & Forests. BNHS also took up the issue with the Government of India through the Indian Bird Conservation Network and ensured that the Chief Minister of Nagaland was also effectively lobbied.

National and Local government action swiftly followed. The Honourable Minister, Smt Jayanthi Natarajan personally intervened and The Indian Forest Department and District Administration also acted fast to destroy nets and release several still-captive falcons. The sale of falcons has now been stopped and at least one person has already been jailed.

Now the birds that avoided trapping have departed India to continue their migration, BNHS plans to introduce measures that will prevent this crisis from happening again. However, hunting in Nagaland has been an issue for many years and shifting deep-seated cultural perspectives is likely to be a lengthy process. Long-term community engagement will inevitably be the key to a lasting solution.

Amur Falcon is an incredible long distance migrant, which travels from its breeding grounds in north-east Asia via the Indian Subcontinent and a lengthy flight over the Indian Ocean, to winter in Southern Africa. To enjoy protection throughout their intercontinental flyways, species taking such journeys require coordinated conservation action in many different countries.  The BirdLife Flyways Programme is ideally placed to coordinate national conservation action along such extensive migratory routes.

Several BirdLife Partners and BirdLife International staff have also been actively involved in the coordination of a longer term international advocacy campaign in conjunction with the United Nation’s Convention on Migratory Species. In addition, BirdLife Partners, including BirdLife South Africa, where the species winters, see here, and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), see here, have also been lending voice to the campaign, ensuring their national supporters and relevant government agencies are aware of the situation.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank every concerned individual who has written to us directly from all over the world asking how they and we might act to prevent this massacre from occurring again. We apologise for not being able to respond to every enquiry individually. We welcome the unity of commitment from all who wish to help. We urgently need your support. Please make a donation to help fund the further work we need to do. All images used in this news story are presented with the kind permission of Conservation India who retains full image copyright. This news story is brought to you by the BirdLife Flyways and Preventing Extinctions Programmes.