GPS-tagged Amur Falcon reaches Somalia from Manipur

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Thrissur: Ornithologists of Manipur had recently tagged GPS satellite radio transmitter to a pair of Amur Falcons to track the places of their expedition after their migratory stopover at the north-eastern state. Surprisingly, going by the signal indicators, it was found that the female Amur Falcon named ‘Tamenglong’ flew to as far as Somalia in Africa. She continued the migratory journey despite losing her male partner midway.

Amur Falcons are a member of the longest travelling raptors in the world. Last week, the Kole fields in Thrissur too played host to this avian guest. In December 2013 as many as 20 Amur Falcons swooped down to a spot near Malampuzha dam in Palakkad district. The winged guests are also fascinated by other parts of Kerala such as Madayipara in Kannur and Punchakari wetlands at Vellayani in Thiruvananthapuram. And of late, Thrissur Kole lands have also caught the fancy of the falcons.

Long expedition

November 5:

The male falcon named ‘Manipur’ was released from the Chiuluvan village in Manipur’s Tamenglong district along with his female pair ‘Tamenglong’. During the course of the journey ‘Manipur’ died at Kebuching. However, ‘Tamenglong’ continued its flight, and on November 19 it shot off from the Indian frontiers for a non-stop expedition.

November 24:

After an incredible flight of over migration lasting five days and 8 hours, ‘Tamenglong’ landed on the shores of Somalia. In 19 days she covered 5,700 kilometres.

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Expensive procedure

Back in Manipur, the scientists started receiving the GPS messages daily in every 4 hours. The GPS tagging is quite an expensive affair with the cost of attaching a satellite radio transmitter on one bird running to Rs 1.5 lakh.

The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, the government of Manipur, ornithologists from Hungary and a few non-government organisations joined hands to embark on the GPS-tracking mission as part of the conservation project of Amur falcons, that are largely harvested by humans. Their aim was to track the migratory routes of the birds, study their duration of flight and scope of survival. The authorities keep a constant watch on the messages received from radio transmitters. They sort the data and update them on online webportal.

The Ministry of Forests and Environment is funding the programme as part of the comprehensive development of the wildlife sanctuaries and protect the bird species which are hunted during their famous migratory journey.

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The satellite tracking method has been yielding good results. Another satellite-tagged female Amur falcon named ‘Longleng’ released on October 30, 2016 from Nagaland, has been sending messages at regular intervals even now.

Migration trail

The long distance trans-equitorial migrant species sets out for the lengthy flight from north-eastern Siberia. The main breeding ground of Amur Falcons is the Amur region comprising Korea, east Mongolia, north-eastern China and south east Russia. After a brief stopover in India, the birds cross the Arabian Sea in the westerly direction to undertake the longest overwater migration. They alight in the African continent, spend the winter and later flock back to homeland of Siberia with unerring precision. By this time the birds would have covered a distance of 22,000 km (13,676 miles). The course of migration is mainly determined by the direction of wind. During the journey, the falcons feed on dragonflies, the migrant community among the insects.

Hub of Amur Falcons

In India, Manipur and Nagaland are considered as the hub of Amur Falcon congregation. For, studies indicate that 99 per cent of the raptor species in the world flock in large numbers to these north-eastern states during the months of October and November.

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Arun is a graduate in Forestry from the Forestry College of Kerala Agricultural University

Keralite in conservation project

The Manipur Government’s conservation project of Amur Falcons has a Malayali brain - R S Arun, hailing from Kozhikode. He is currently the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) under Tamenglong Forest Division. Arun, a graduate in Forestry from the Forestry College of Kerala Agricultural University, has done post-graduation from Punjab Agricultural University.

On entering forestry service, Arun secured a post-graduate diploma in Advanced Wildlife Management from the Wildlife Institute of Dehradun. He was first posted as the director of Manipur Zoological Garden at Imphal in 2012. In 2015 he became the chief conservator of Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur.

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