Meet the Indian villages fighting against adversity to protect migratory birds

Villagers from Pangti, Nagaland State, used to be hunterswho catch the migratory Amur falcon Falco amurensis by the thousands every day. These hawks stop in Nagaland in October and November to rest and feed themselves during their migration from China or Siberia to southern Africa. At the Doyang Reservoir – an important bird and biodiversity area next to the village of Pangti – the annual gathering of Amur falcons grows to over 100,000 birds and is considered to be the largest of its kind in the world.

BNHS (BirdLife in India) has been working on site since 2013 to promote community protection for falcons. It started with focus group meetings to identify the villagers’ problems and find solutions that would allow the villagers to benefit from the hawks without hunting them. Eco clubs employed villagers as staff and trained hundreds of children. At the same time, we worked with the State Forestry Service to raise the profile of falcon protection and build ecotourism for income, with visitors staying in the homes of local families. We have also worked hard to communicate to the government the infrastructure issues that villagers are facing, such as road quality, storage for fishing and obtaining funding for ecotourism.

While the village is now internationally known for welcoming falcons, Pangti’s problems are still associated with loss of livelihoods and a lack of infrastructure. That year, villagers banned tourism to the falcon roosts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This has led to a loss of income. Last year they were unable to take in tourists because the road to their village was not repaired. As a result of unfortunate events in local politics, modernization funds for the “resting place of the Amur falcon” were sent to another village that does not receive any falcons.

“We asked the government to change the nomenclature in relation to the other village, as Pangti is the resting place of the Amur hawks. We have also requested that our road be repaired. Although it is difficult and we have lost income from tourism this year, we will continue to receive Amur falcons, ”said Jenithung Shitiri, chairwoman of the Pangti village council. The commitment from Shitiri and the village council is inspiring and BNHS and BirdLife will continue to support their efforts.

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Across the country in the eastern state of Odisha, similar community determination is saving thousands of wild migratory birds. The Mangalajodi wetland is located in a corner of Chilika, India’s largest lagoon. The area used to witness regular poaching by villagers. Wild Orissa, one of the most active members of the BNHS-run Indian Bird Conservation Network, has worked for years to turn these poachers into bird conservationists.

“We started investigating the area in 1996. Between 1996 and 1999, we had extensive discussions with the people of Mangalajodi to understand the patterns of poaching. In 2000, together with the forestry department, we succeeded in convincing the poachers to stop their illegal activities. From 2003 onwards, young steps were taken towards ecotourism, ”says Monalisa Bhujabal, Secretary of Wild Orissa. Today Mangalajodi is one of the most sought after bird destinations in India.

Thanks to their admirable commitment, the villagers of Mangalajodi and Pangti are partly responsible for the fact that hundreds of thousands of international birds can now fly freely.


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