Changing Planet

Migrating Amur Falcons Massacred in India: We Need A Global Solution

In October 2012, Conservation India documented the shocking massacre of tens of thousands of migrating Amur falcons (Falco amurensis) in the remote state of Nagaland in north-eastern India. Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan estimate that between 120,000 and 140,000 Amur falcons are being slaughtered every year in NE India, which sees the largest congregations of these falcons along their vast migration route from Siberia through the Himalayas and all the way down to Somalia, Kenya and South Africa. They cover over 22,000 kilometers every year and undertake the largest sea crossing of any raptor when crossing the Indian Ocean to Africa – including several nights of flying in the dark. India is a signatory to the Convention of Migratory Species and thus have a duty under international law to ensure this killing is halted immediately. Conservation India has received undertakings from the Indian government to end all further trade in Amur falcons through better enforcement, but nothing seems to be happening… India is actually the President of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the next two years, yet blatantly ignore the importance of biodiversity conservation and halting the bushmeat trade to this international convention. The Indian government needs to make people and resource available to support the transition of these Amur falcon trappers to alternative livelihoods before it is too late. It is clear that the people of Nagaland urgently need better access to education and rural development programs that support sustainable livelihoods alongside biodiversity conservation in this beautiful region. I hope that the whole world will be watching what the Indian government does next year to stop this slaughter. Migratory species like Amur falcons drive home that we are a global community that needs global solutions to poverty, hunger, climate, and biodiversity conservation…


Andrew Keys
The amazing Amur Falcons undertake the longest regular overwater passage of any raptor, crossing over the Indian Ocean between W India and tropical E Africa - a journey of more than 4,000 km that also includes nocturnal flight. (Andrew Keys)
Andrew Keys
Amur falcons are small raptor that breed in SE Siberia and N China migrating over 22,000 kilometers every year to winter in S and E Africa. (Andrew Keys)


The local people filmed by Conservation India catching Amur falcons, breaking their wings, sorting them, smoking them, and trading in them, cannot possibly enjoy this annual activity and do this purely for money and trade goods. They may look forward to the arrival of the falcons, but only because of the commercial and subsistence opportunities. Most of the local community most likely celebrate the arrival of the falcons as a wonder of nature and simply marvel at it. This is not just happening in India. It has happening all over the world. It has happened before and caused extinctions… Remember the passenger pigeon of the United States? Right now, hundreds of thousands of African green pigeons in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being caught in nets, skewered, and smoked in a similar fashion… They will go locally extinct if we do not stop this unsustainable trade…


People in the DRC have even resorted to eating bonobos, our closest extant relatives on earth….?!


When everything is stripped away by poverty and hunger, life becomes very simple and breaking the wings of a falcon or a pigeon and keeping it alive to preserve the meat before smoking would make perfect sense. We will never halt the devastating impacts of the bushmeat and international wildlife trade until we address the striking inequalities in our global community, at village level, regional level, national level, and in the international community. To put yourself in place of the people involved in the Amur falcon trade please read how Dalvi and Sreenivasan describe the unethical process undertaken by trappers:

“The captured birds are kept alive in mosquito nets or cane baskets… so they can be exported alive to the customers and markets. From cane baskets, the birds are “transferred” to poles (long sharp skewers) for ease of carrying into villages and towns. Birds eventually die in the process and (these birds) are de-feathered, plucked and smoked for sale. (Smoking supports a) longer shelf life.”

Amur falcons are absolutely stunning in the wild and sought after by birders and wildlife photographers. To these people their value cannot be measured in Dollars or Pounds, but to the people of Nagaland they have a monetary value, as Dalvi and Sreenivasan explain:

“Each bird (Amur falcon) is sold for Rs16-25 in number of birds for Rs100 (=$1.90 or £1.20). This sale usually happens door-to-door.”

Unsustainable local consumption like in the DRC with the green pigeons, the extinct passenger pigeon in the United States, and this mass 2-week killing of over 100,000 Amur falcons are all caused by social and economic instability and inequality in the face of rapid development and exploitation of natural resources. Areas too unstable, remote or inaccessible to develop are simply ignored and local growing communities are left to support themselves with what they have… the land. Climate change and global financial systems make this difficult and many communities resort to destroying the natural heritage for food and warmth. Forcing people with ancestral heritage rights of land tenure to exterminate local wildlife and degrade the landscape is something we all need to take responsibility for, instead of sitting in judgement of the people filmed, their government, our government, those people, them, the “traders”… We watch them as they coldly and without emotion breaking wings, piling them up like dead carcasses, and skewering them for smoking, and judge them in the knowledge that we would not do the same in their circumstance… The suffering of the Amur falcons is immense and their only reward is death. For the Nagaland trappers there is little reward for destroying these birds and must only see this as a means to an end. We need a global solution for this situation.


Andrew Keys
Amur falcons arrive in their S African winter range in November or December and depart by early May, dispersing to feed mainly of insects, such as termites. (Andrew Keys)
Mark Drysdale
During the peak Amur falcon migration 12,000–14,000 falcons are hunted for local consumption and commercial sale everyday. This beautiful Amur falcon was photographed safe in South Africa. (Mark Drysdale)
Mark Drysdale
Amur Falcons are generally silent and only make high-pitched "kew-kew-kew" sounds when at communal roosts or when stressed like in the video. (Mark Drysdale)

According to Conservation India, the Indian government has repeatedly pointed out that migratory birds are being killed on their way to India, resulting, for example, in the Siberian Crane now being locally extinct in India. The hypocrisy of statements like this is clear, but the Indian government are not alone in this seemingly natural human behavioral trait of passing on blame and ignoring glaring problems until it is far too late. One day no Amur falcons will make it to South Africa and the South Africans will blame India. The Indian government already blames Russia for the disappearance of Siberian Cranes from India. The Congo forests may one day have no more green pigeons. Who do they have to blame? There must be someone? South Africa laments Vietnam and China for their role in the deaths of hundreds of rhino every year. Over the last 30 years, since rhinos almost went extinct due to poaching, South Africa has become a global hub for the wild-caught bird trade with traders and importers taking advantage of an advanced avicultural industry in a country with under-resourced enforcement and poorly trained permit officers.


The world is a much smaller place in the 21st century and we need to take responsibility for all threats to our global ecosystem like this unacceptable and unnatural massacre of hundreds of thousands of Amur falcons. We need to act as a global community of Earth citizens…


Our responsibility as Earth citizens…

It our responsibility as a global community of Earth’s citizens to reach out to those who do not have the opportunities we have for reflection on the changes happening around us, on the imminent threat to species survival in our forests, at our poles, in our oceans, and across landscapes. Credit crunch or not, housing boom or bust, we need to tighten our belts, live with less and give more. I am not necessarily talking about donating money, I am talking about investing your mind power and energy in a new future. We do not need to riot or burn things. We need to act for the good of each other and break the cycle of mistrust that fuels the current destruction of our planet. Think about other people, about climate change, about endangered species, about dying coral reefs… Live a mindful life that recognizes the impact of your decisions and actions.


PLEASE SHARE this blog with your friends and MOST IMPORTANTLY share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below. We need to discuss this to find a workable solution in increasingly desperate times…


Please support Conservation India in their work to end this horrific slaughter of one of the most amazing falcons on earth:

Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.
  • Theo Lubbe

    They could, at the very least, engage in their activities in a more humane manner… Those birds don’t need to be strung up in bunches by their feet – if humans were being traded as food, would those same villagers like to be strung up by the toes while carried to the slaughterhouse? I don’t think so.

    I’ve long been of the opinion that if a government cannot support its people, and/or those people cannot support themselves, they shouldn’t be expanding their population. There are children involved in these activities – how many children are there in the background that are living in borderline poverty?

    Having less people to support makes it easier to support those people rather than popping out mouth after mouth that needs feeding.

  • Brenda Scott

    I live very close to a roost here and these birds are my passion, we do counts on these amazing creatures every year! I find this devestating. Have shared on Face Book. Man should be ashamed of themselves with the way we are wiping out wild life. No regard

  • Carole Falcon

    Why is it à religious thing or are the juste crasy

  • Rael Loon

    Thank-you for the thoughtful essay Steve.Very distressing situation – can the Convention of Biological Diversity and Convention of Migratory Species assist Conservation India to help reduce the massacre? Have any biologists looked at the population demographics of Amur Falcons in terms of growth and survival rates? Clearly whats happening now is not sustainable. If the government cannot halt this practice entirely maybe they can at least begin enforcing sustainable harvesting quotas? Still not a pleasant thought but may be a realistic approach to begin with? Kind regards, Rael

  • alo

    I also live close by where this is happening. Many of our people (tribals) are still deep rooted in indiscriminate hunting practices. These people are not doing this for sustainence rather its like a stupid pastime. this has been going on for a longtime. The authorities are not sincere in tackling this practice. What you folks can do to help? I think best way would be to highlight your concern in the local print media as this would be the only way to communicate with these idiots. It would be most effective if people like you from far away places raises these issues. NAGALAND POST & MORUNG EXPRESS are 2 widely circulated newspapers here.

  • Girish

    Indigenous tribes in India are known to live in harmony with nature. The Naga tribes, who are responsible for this bird slaughter, have been converted to Christianity and as a result have lost respect for mother nature.

  • Rohan Chakravarty
  • Nodge

    This is a disgrace! the people in this film are well dressed, well fed individuals. They are far removed from the images of poverty we normally see and associate with such practice. Acts such as this do not stop until it threatens the livelihood of the politicians who get fat on the backs of the people they are supposed to represent.

  • nikhilraj

    NortEast Indians are assholes,they almost feed on to anything,recently there was a report of tiger being killed in the zoo by northeast indians for meat,they are even said to eat leopards and dogs,I hate them and what the indian government is doing is staying mute.

  • Ramana

    I’m an indian. I feel strongly against these killings like you do. The problem is that while the state of nagaland comes within the indian confederation, it still operates in autonomy as part of a peace process between new delhi and the leaders of nagaland. That agreement is a very fragile one and any interference by new delhi with the traditions of the local people of nagaland is viewed with suspicion.

    In most situations, an interocular is brought in. A counter to nagalands tribalism is Christianity. The protestants will actually have more influence on the peoplae of nagaland than new delhi. If you can arrange a group of these influential bodies to talk to them then you might have a solution.

  • Neisekolie Mor

    Conservation in the State of Nagaland is only on papers. Who really cares for wild animals? The government has never really done anything serious or taken any initiative worth mentioning to save wild life. So long as rich bureaucrats and government officials continue to offer high prices for wild meat, to the last piece of anything call ‘wild’ (including crows) will be hunted down for consumption. However, just a hundred miles away, a Christian Village called Khonoma situated some 20kms westward of Kohima City, the capital of Nagaland has successfully created a safe sanctuary for the rare Blythe Tragopan called Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctury (KNCTS) covering an area of 125 sq kms of virgin forestland which is the first of its kind in the world. Geographical location, people or religion, whatsoever it be- it doesn’t really matter, its the attitude that one have to kill or to preserve. Nagas because they have Christians cannot be said to have adopted a killing instinct. Compared to mainline India, it still have more positive thinking citizens and more hospitable people who certainly will learn to accommodate these birds. Besides many churches no longer allow wild meat being served as food items in their meetings and gathering.

  • Khotuo Yhome

    Hunting has been a practice for the Naga people and people still take it like a hobby. Many local species have disappeared (may not be extinct) from our forest. Large scale commercial exploitation of this migratory bird is unfortunate. The government of India has done little in improving the living standard of these villagers. They have little opportunity to supplement their income to send their children to urban areas for education. I know, even in village level administration, the importance of conservation is taught, but circumstances do not favour them or the birds.

  • Tilak ch Sarmah

    I am very sad to see the massacre of Amur Falcon in Nagaland.
    Govt of India and Nagaland should take a bold step to stop such barbarous killings of innocent birds. My God, …..

  • Torborg Berge

    This is awful and cruel, and we need to stop it – both in Nagaland, in the DRC, Malta, and in other places where similar things happen.
    Would it help to make a petition against this, where people could sign and, if the want to, share their thoughs? A petition handed over to the governments in question, should make tham aware of that the World its watching them in these matters.

  • Neisekolie Mor

    The concerned Village Councils ( the most powerful body amongst all organizations in any village of Nagaland), if they so desire to really stop the killings of these birds can put a ban on the hunting down of these falcons in their respective territories. Since 1999 Khonoma Village Council has successfully ban hunting in its entire jurisdiction,and has imposed a fine of Rs. 3000 upon the few misbehaving individuals for every single bird or animal shot in its initial years. Today no one dares to hunt! What is Killed may not be brought back to life but the many livings to flock in this same area in the coming years will be ensured of a friendly falcon zone if the said village Councils can enforce upon, a strict ban on hunting. But also the good news is that more than a hundred times in numbers are those concerned Nagas to those handful of ignorant hunters whose desire is to see that the same numbers of Amur Falcons which visited our land reaches South Africa safely.

  • R.Kithan

    This is a conflict area in India. A military conflict between India and Nagaland where Nagaland is fighting for its sovereignty. The state is actually run by a parallel govt set up by the insurgents. It would be rather beneficial to contact the insurgent leaders and inform them about this issue as the state govt elected by the people have no or very little power to actually govern the people.

  • Ramana

    The relationship between India and Nagaland is that of a “protectorate” state. Besides an active indian military presence in nagaland, the GoI doesn’t actually have any leverage on the state or the people of nagaland.

    As someone here has said, you’re better off talking to the militant groups who have actual control over the societal happenings of the naga people.

  • Neisekolie Mor

    Mr. Kithan, I respect your opinion, so also I have deep regard for all those genuine Naga freedom fighters who have loved our land more than their own personal interests. But without further explanation we know how many of them have become so irresponsible for any responsibility. We can’t just hand them over the ultimate authority and consider the work being done. If we don’t trust the government, still we can count on ourselves. Nagas have come together a long way and today we ought to show the world, we still are group of people who dont give up doing what is right. Let us not be discouraged by those few narrow minded Indians who thinks of us as nothing but scavengers. let them have their say, we’ll overcome all these together.

  • Nuno Longkumer

    @nikhilraj eating tigers duhhhhhhhhhhh? that’s news

  • Manoj KUMAR sinhha

    Indian government must take the responsibility to stop this massacre of Amur Falcon.

  • andrew mart

    I’m shocked at the scale of this. WHere do they get the nets etc? If they are so called poverty stricken villagers how can they support this on such a huge scale??? What a cruel, short-sighted, selfish, ignorant race of people.

  • Alan

    I believe that the Falconry community would be very upset to learn of the killing of these falcons – and that something must be wrong with the human/social factors in this area of India for this to be happening.

  • bogdan draganescu

    just because these birds are numerous and are not on the verge of extinction, does not mean they are food for humans. animals should be respected not only as individuals but also as groups and societies. just as a flock of birds is. a living entity and a result of evolution of life. this is what we have to respect and conserve.

  • ren

    If we look at the bright sight, an NGO from Nagaland is working hard for the conservation of this beautiful birds. But in order for this conservation program to be successful, the world community need to lend a helping hand…. Sooner the better.


    we the humans have sense what to do and what not to, the government, non governmental organisations must take preventive steps like educating the people who are forcefully driven into this cruel act for their livelyhood

  • David

    Well done Indians!
    Because they are eating millions of our pigeons worldwide and nobody gives a shit about it just because they are BOP!!!
    At least someone got balls to do on the Far East what Westerners are afraid to do in their own states, because of the high penalties and sever law punishments!!!

  • Temjen Imsong

    From this year forth, there is TOTAL PROHIBITION to any harming or killing of these birds. The State Forest Department, Government of Nagaland, various NGOs including Churches and various like minded supporters have come forth to protect our feathered friends. I am happy to say that this year THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO MORE KILLING OF AMUR FALCONS IN NAGALAND.

    You can find further information and updates from here.

    Amur falcons Sighting Related Information

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  • Jungshi Jamir

    Hunting has been a part of our human gene pool. History tells us that at some point we were all game hunters. Notice in America, hunting was very popular before and after the colonies had arrived. It is still practiced in the deep forests of America today, probably a lesser rage of game hunting that in the past. The Holy Bible talks about it in Genesis 9:3 – “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things”.

    In todays world, especially in highly urbanized and populated places, processed food, cans, manufacture goods, poultry, meat etc are produced because its the only way to feed the population. However, places like Russia, Alaska, Southern/Northern China, Mongolia, Canada, and most parts of and the North East India and Himalayas share a common eco-friendly, vast natural resources with rich natural habitat. There is a reason why the birds come to such places. These birds are flown from South Africa to Orissa, to Nagaland. Its a long journey and yes, we the people of North East and in particular Nagaland ought to protect our friends. Just like our bird (Hornbill) and our feathered heritage costumes and culture.

    Looking back at history, and today, places like Nagaland is rare for the birds and for many of us. The Amur falcon has come to stay and it is our duty to save them. Lets do our part, be hospitable as we always do and God will do the rest.

  • Avijit Dasgupta

    It is really lamenting to listen and remain witness to such incident in our so called civilized society. No only of Amur Falcons but I can name many a species which are nearly going to be extinct very soon. Let all wide and conscious MAN stand up and pledge to fight for the cause.Please stop talking about the Govt. Of India, we have lost hopes from them. They are least bothered about any development beside their OWN-SELF and the SEAT on which they sit. VERY SHAMEFUL AND DISHEARTENING TO TALK ABOUT, in such way about our own COUNTRY, but that is the HARDEST reality. Leave it. We need to do in with like minded people who are coming up who heartedly. MY FULL SUPPORT FOR THE CAUSE. I am also working here in West Bengal for the cause of Wild Life. Pls keep me informed. I can work for the cause.

  • Atsung Imchen

    Here’s the THING, for all those “OMG, this should be stopped” “OMG what cruelty” “OMG this and that etc etc”
    Atleast Know with what people you’re dealing with here. Nagaland is fighing for its Independence from India for over 50 years, War crimes and other documented crimes committed by the so called Indian Army still freshly lingers over the mass majority of the Naga’s and the rest of the world prefer TURNING A BLIND EYE to all that has happened over there.

    In General, the Naga’s do not Consider themselves to be Indians thats the bottom line, When you enter the Gates of Nagaland you will see it yourself it has nothing to do with what Mainland Indians do. The Governmnet of India have no say on what happens in Nagaland, so you can stop appealing to them like its the Solution.

    Nagaland Government is ridden with corruption, The Naga Army is divided and has so many factions, its only some few dedicated NGO’s, Churches, Villlagers and Village councils that has given success in Turning Hunters to Protectors which you can clearly see in 2014 with regard to the AMUR. If you at all want to do something about it, fight at the core level, Instead of acting as a Righteous soul, come out of your comfort zone and fight the main reason for all this problem that is CORRUPTION. If that is Minimized by even 30% you will see less things like the massacre of Amur falcons happening around the World and especially in Nagaland.

    If you can’t do that kindly save your pity comments for some other Righteous Person.


  • Pichano

    It has been recorded that there has been zero killing of Amur falcon this year, thanks to the efforts of the state government, NGOs, village bodies and churches. We nagas aren’t hostile people. Yes we did indulge in the massacre of these beautiful and amazing birds because the villagers were not aware of the harm that their actions were causing. However, we can now hold our heads up high and say “not anymore” . As a result of the various awareness programs, hunting of Amur falcons has been made illegal and penalties imposed on offenders. Now we nagas anticipate the arrival of Amur falcons not to hunt them down for meat but to protect them.

  • ann

    So sad, it’s amazing you care so much about falcons but say nothing about the systemic massacre of cows, pigs, chickens daily horrificly, by the millions

  • David Walker

    Well this is something that is not humanity seriously slaughtering of animal is very bad and the figures here mention is too high. Someone has to take serious steps and I think govt should do something.

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