Conservation of the Amur Falcons and their Habitat/ Natural Resources by the Lemsachenlok Society, Nagaland
Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) is a migratory raptor with one of the longest migration routes of all birds, covering a distance of up to 22,000 km annually. It makes the voyage from its breeding grounds in Russia and China to southern Africa, via Northeast India and the Arabian Sea. It is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and has been included under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild (CMS). The state of Nagaland, in the North-East biogeographic region of India is a part of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot and its forests serve as the primary stopover roosting site for these raptors, owing to which it is also referred to as the ‘Falcon Capital of the World.’ Forest governance in the State is majorly characterized by customary land ownership and management practices, overseen by the Village Councils, and other traditional governance institutions,.
Need for the Initiative
Until 2012, Amur falcons were being trapped, killed and sold in local markets of Nagaland; an estimated 120,000-140,000 falcons were captured and slaughtered every year (Conservation India, n.d.). As a result, the number for the Amur falcons roosting in the State dwindled considerably. India, as a signatory to the CMS, was required to formulate appropriate action plans for the long-term conservation of the bird and was supported by Forest Departments and NGOs at the State and local level. In Yaongyimchen village of the Longleng district in Nagaland, these falcons were severely threatened due to unregulated hunting activities, and habitat degradation caused due to excessive logging and prevalence of Jhum cultivation practices.
Conservation Initiatives and Impacts
The Lemsachenlok Society, a local NGO in the Yaongyimchen village, extended its conservation efforts to ensure the protection of the migratory raptors and their habitats across Yaongyimchen and its adjoining villages, Alayong and Sanglu, which have been recently carved from the Yaongyimchen village. Each village has its own Village Council and representatives from all three councils form a Yaongyimchen Citizen Office which is an umbrella body that takes decisions regarding common matters. The Lemsachenlok Society has been approved by the Citizen Office and its membership comprises representatives from the Village Councils, local student bodies, women’s societies and members from each of the six clans in the villages. It is headed by a Chairman, who is responsible for facilitating discussions, finalizing targets and ensuring effective implementation of conservation and development initiatives in the villages. Lemsachenlok began its conservation initiatives in the year 2010, by creating awareness regarding the significance of biodiversity conservation, with special emphasis on protecting the Amur falcons, amongst village leaders and community members, through meetings and focused group discussions. In 2012, it facilitated the establishment of the Yaongyimchen Community Biodiversity Conservation Area (YCBCA), which is spread across 8 sq.km of subtropical forests of the three villages, and now serves as one of the primary stopover roosting sites for the Amur falcons in the State. The YCBCA covers the forests of hamlets - Nyangchi, Awakung, Owaü and Akchang, and the rivers and streams of Düla, Düthet, Shiung, and Okyong. It is entirely managed by the local communities and has strict regulations, issued by the Village Councils, whereby logging, hunting and fishing, use of guns, catapults and any other form of local traps, within the YCBCA jurisdiction has been prohibited. Jhum cultivation has been banned within the YCBCA. Regular monitoring is carried out by establishing a rotation system amongst several groups of volunteers from the community to ensure compliance and the defaulters are fined accordingly by the Village Councils. The Lemsachenlok Society has also established a center for dissemination of traditional knowledge called ‘Alijo’, which also serves as a platform to generate awareness on activities of CCA and biodiversity conservation. These initiatives have resulted in the return of Amur falcons in vast numbers to their roosting ground in recent years and a thriving wildlife population in the YCBCA. From approximately 20,000 birds recorded in 2005, more than 1,500,000 Amur falcons have been recorded roosting in the area in 2018. In addition to the Falcons, YCBCA now harbours more than 30 barking deer, 85 species of avifauna, 15 species of frogs, Indian leopards, stags and other wildlife species. The formation of the conservation area has further resulted in ecological benefits such as decrease in soil erosion, restoration and natural regeneration of degraded forest ecosystem, and availability of non-timberforest products. A Biodiversity Park is now being constructed, adjoining the YCBCA to conserve the local genetic pool of flora and fauna, which will be managed by the community and governed by the Village Councils. Lemsachenlok is now promoting ecotourism as an alternate source of livelihood for the local communities, with bird watching as the prime attraction. A watchtower has been constructed near the falcon’s roosting site in order to provide a good view to the tourists. Additionally, a 60-feet long eco-friendly bridge has been constructed over the Bento River, connecting the outer area of YCBCA to the main roosting site, which has restricted entry. The youth are provided with regular training in effective management of the conservation area and eco-tourism activities. Lemsachenlok has also facilitated the establishment of a Community Bank called ‘Chen Jen’ which raises capital funding for community micro-finance projects such as piggery and construction of fish ponds. It is currently supporting 22 Self-Help Groups in small scale manufacturing of Hampangnyu (spice made from fermented Colocasia leaves).
Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards
The Lemsachenlok society won the India Biodiversity Awards (IBA) under the category ‘Conservation of Species in Wild’ in 2018.Contact Y.Nuklu Phom Tel. +91 8974184640 Email: email@example.com