The South Eastern Siberian Amur falcons (Falco amurensis), which migrate in large numbers to Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam in India, returned to the hills of Tamenglong in Manipur in the first week of October this year. The migratory bird, whose arrival with the setting in of the winter months every year to Tamenglong is welcomed with great celebration, is today dying in the hands of reckless hunters and shooters in the forest of this hill district to bullets of airguns and catapults daily.
The arrival of Amur falcons to Tamenglong is a much awaited event since the days of old as the villagers believe they bring good tidings of good fortune and rich harvest. The arrival of Amur falcons was celebrated with educational camps and traditional events featuring performances of traditional dances and songs by the local people. This year, rampant hunting and killing of this small raptor of the falcon family has been reported as concerned authorities failed to take stringent action or issue order to prevent or stop their killing unlike in the previous years.
Hunting Amur Falcons for Sports
While some people hunt for Amur Falcon to get a taste of the meat, for most hunters, it is not the meat, but the game they delight in. Most young boys and men want to try their hands in shooting. Some of them who could afford expensive air guns would go camping at the roosting sites of Amur Falcons. Amur falcon often roost in the region till the end of November.
They would sleep over at the site and could kill some hundreds a night. The local boys are good at using catapults. They do not need air guns. They use catapults to shoot the birds down. They can match the skill of the airgun shooter’s marksmanship.
Still haunted by the pride of head hunting during the days of their forefathers, they find pleasure in shooting down innocent birds, which are considered their trophies. The more the falcons they could kill, the higher the honour.
Where have all the forest protectors gone?
The authorities concerned used to control the killing of Amur falcons in Tamenglong by issuing prohibition orders or imposition of fines to the culprits. But this year, where have they gone?
In the olden days, catapults and locally made arrows were used as weapons for hunting wild birds. With the arrival of airguns, hunting is now a sport that can kill hundreds per session by a single hunter. Simply put, people are hunting Amur falcons, consuming them, selling them, and giving them to friends and relatives. They do not do it openly in the town. The shooting of amur falcons is mostly carried out in villages and forests.
Some local youths are asking their friends staying outside the district to bring the best airgun pellets for hunting.
According to reports, some people give permission to the hunters to hunt from their forest areas by paying some kills as tribute. A pair of killed falcons costs around Rs 300 in the black market. One person, who had tasted the bird meat, on the condition of anonymity, says, ‘Though they arrived just a few weeks ago they have developed some fats already!’
Despite the increasing rampant killing of the raptor which points to lack of awareness or ignorance or disregard for wildlife conservation and legal action, any kind of notification or prohibition order or appeal is conspicuously missing this year 2022. As such, the excitement of satellite tagging of the birds, naming them Barak, Tamenglong or Irang is seeming to end in a whimper.
It may be mentioned that to ensure the safety of ‘Akhuaipuina’ (Amur falcon), the district administration in November 2020 had issued an order to ban all kinds of hunting and killing of wild animals and birds in Tamenglong district of Manipur. The 2020 order mentioned all villages to strictly monitor and ensure implementation of the order.