Tale of “Tamenglong & Manipur” two GPS Satellite Transmitters tagged Amur Falcons (Falco Amurensis)

 Kh Hitler Singh
Contd from previous issue
Very luckily the net had five Amur falcons and we successfully took them out without harming the body and feathers and put in Paper boxes. These birds were brought back to our camp site and kept there for the night. Early in the morning of 5th November 2018, the biometric of the all the five birds were taken and CH01, a female and CH03, a Male Amur falcon were chosen for putting the Satellite Radio Transmitters as they were the most healthy birds among the caught birds and met the necessary technical requirements to do so.
After hours of dedication by the experts, the tagging was finally done. The two Amur falcons CH01, a female with Tag No.43215 and CH03, a Male withTag No.43213 were christened as “Tamenglong” and “Manipur” with due permission from Government of Manipur through Chief Wildlife Warden, Government of Manipur.
The Scientists insisted for immediate release of the SRT tagged birds at captured area itself, for scientific reasons. After careful considerations and discussions, we decided to release “Tamenglong” near the Bank of Barak River along with the other three untagged birds. But for making huge impact on awareness for conserving Amur falcon far and wide, the team felt it would be very fruitful to release one “Manipur” by the Chief Guest of the “4th Amur Falcon Festival” somewhere a little up in the Khongjaron Village. Unfortunately, despite having all three vehicles with 4 x 4 special gears, we couldn’t come up on time. Because of a very heavy rainfall the previous night, the steep slope roads laden with thick mud made the vehicles hard to climb up. As much time had elapsed already, the experts felt necessary to release the bird there itself as keeping the bird for long in the box could compromise its overall health. Thus “Manipur” was also released somewhere midway to Chiuluan village in presence of the Chairman of the Village. By the Grace of God all the members of the Research team could join the “4th Amur Falcon Festival” held at Unity Stadium Tamenglong even though we all had a very tiring schedule at Chiuluan.
The Division has successfully conducted 4th Edition of Amur Falcon Dance Festival on 5th November 2018. The popularity of the Festival is getting momentum year after year. In 2015 the first Amur Falcon festival, Shri M. Luikham, DC Tamenglong was the Chief Guest. In 2016, Shri K. Angami PCCF(WL) cum Chief Wildlife Warden was the Chief Guest. In 2017 Shri Samuel Zendai, Hon’ble MLA was the Chief Guest. And in the latest, Chief Guest, President, and Guest of Honor were Shri Samuel Zendai, Hon’ble MLA; Shri K. Angami, PCCF &HoFF  and Shri DJN Anand PCCF(WL) cum CWW respectively. There were several senior Forest Officers, Scientists from Wildlife Institute of India, Hungarian Raptor Biologists, Police Officers, local leaders and many local people and dance troupes. The program was conducted with the selfless support of Rainforest Club, Tamenglong which has been and is still working sincerely for the cause of safeguarding environment in the District.
The “4th Amur Falcon Festival 2018” held at Unity Stadium Tamenglong was to be Chaired by Hon’ble Minister, Forest & Environment, Shri Th. Shyamkumar as Chief Guest. But due to bad weather condition Helicopter Service from Imphal to Tamenglong was cancelled on that day. But as assured by himself to be present for the festival, we all felt humbled as Hon’ble Minister, Forest & Environment arrived Tamenglong, in the evening by Road.
The 4th Amur Falcon Festival 2018 was also held at Bhalok(Phalong) village which was declared as Amur Falcon Village the next day, the 6th of November. Hon’ble Minister Shri Th. Shyamkumar was the Chief Guest at the Festival and inaugurated several infrastructures constructed for conservation and protection of Amur falcons in Tamenglong District. He had inaugurated One Interpretation and Information Centre at Bhalok, Two Amur falcon Watch Towers at Bhalok, One Amur falcon Watch Tower each at Sonpram, Azuram and Bamgaijang village during the Celebration. The works were started during the tenure of  former DFO, Shri Huri Golmei who had retired from service on 31st March 2018. Villagers presented many cultural dance performances during the festival including the famous “Akhoipuina” Dance. 
Radio Satellite tagging of two birds was carried out to understand their migration journey and pattern of roosting; besides the study of its ecology and habitat requirement in detail in collaboration with Scientists from Wildlife Institute of India and Hungarian Raptors Biologists. The two birds christened as “Manipur” and “Tamenglong” were released on 5th November 2018, ahead of 4th Amur Falcon Festival on the same day. After the release, the birds were tracked by ARGOS satellite and the analysed data were made available to us through the www.satellitetracking.eu.
But just after the Celebration of 4th Amur Falcon Dance Festival, there was very sad and shocking news that “Manipur” had stop giving any data from 8th November 2018. In the opinion of Dr. Suresh Kumar the bird was shot between 6.00 am to 10 am of 8th November.The satellite transmitter fixed to Manipur was reportedly handed over to the Shri Arun RS DFO, Tamenglong by the Hon’ble MLA Shri Samuel Zendai. It was reported that the transmitter was retrieved by the villagers of Punglam.
The incident was very sad for the wildlife lovers of Manipur. The Department swiftly deployed an investigation team led by Shri Kh. Brojendro Singh, IFS, CCF and consisting of the officials Shri Napolean Rongmei, DFO/Noney, RFOs Kh. Hitler, L. Birmangol & S. Arunkumar and a police team from Tamenglong P.S. Considering all the reports from field and satellite tracking data it was concluded that Manipur was shot down near Irang River in the area adjacent to Punglam and Puching (Khebuching) Village in the evening of 8th November 2018 by some unknown miscreants. The Department reinforced protection measures at Puching by stationing a team of Forest Staffs led by Shri MK Panmei Head FG for the entire migratory season. In the meantime PCCF & HoFF Shri K. Angami provided a Gypsy for increasing patrolling of the Forest staffs in and around Punglam, Puching, Matung, Bhalok and Chiuluan villages.
The District Magistrate of both Tamenglong and Noney ban airguns in the two Districts following the incident. DC Tamenglong issued an order banning use and possession of airguns in the District on 8th November 2018. On the other hand DC Noney also issued similar order for enforcing within the jurisdiction of Noney District on 12th November 2018. Forest Department had also tried for reaching more remote villages for carrying out awareness program such as poster campaign, one day awareness camp and publicity campaign using loudspeakers etc.
The other female bird “Tamenglong” was giving data regularly. It was mostly confined its roosting in the Puching areas till its further migration. “Tamenglong” left Khebuching on 19th November 2108, reached at Eastern shore of Orissa on 20th November 2018. It further flew toward Western India then toward Arabian Sea for East Africa. It flew non-stop over a distance of 5700 Km for five days and landed in Somalia on 24th November 2018 at 1:00 pm IST(Indian Standard Time). “Tamenglong” further migrated towards South Africa but unluckily it also lost communication from 14th December 2018, when it reached North Luangwa National Park, Zambia. The exact cause of lost of communication with “Tamenglong” is unknown till date.
Several important finding were made during this exercise. If there was/were no unlucky incidents the outcome of this research work could have been very positive and have far reaching positive impact on migratory bird conservation. Tamenglong Forest Division in collaboration with Scientists of Wildlife Institute of India, is planning to tag few more Satellite Radio transmitters in 2019 also to few more birds for further research. It is therefore requested all the stakeholders villagers, Churches, Village Authorities, Local Youth Clubs, etc., to kindly extend support to Forest Department with all possible help and to prevent miscreants from carrying out any form of hunting, trapping or poisoning of wildlife including Amur falcons. By the grace of God; we hope this year all our efforts shall be greatly rewarded and the tagging exercise shall be very successful.
(This article is intended for creation of awareness and in academic interest. The views expressed are writer’s own and these views are not necessarily of that of Forest Department, Government of Manipur.)