The Amur falcon, a species of falcon which breeds in China and Mongolia and migrates through India annually, has been indiscriminately hunted by Pangti villagers over the past decade, who have killed an estimated 100,000 to 400,000 of the birds annually to sell at markets. Normally, such mass killings of wild animals would cause quite an uproar, but the remote Indian region of Pangti was not frequented by many naturalists of birdwatchers who would report it. Ramki Sreenivasan, the co-founder of Conservation India, called it “unexplored territory for Indian naturalists and bird watchers”. It was only in 2012 that Sreenivasan, joined by an amateur ornithologist, finally investigated the mass killings, which had been occurring since the 1999 construction of a local reservoir which attracted the migratory birds in large numbers.
As a result of the investigation, state wildlife officials put pressure on the Pangti Village Council to ban the hunting of the Amur falcon. The villagers, for whom hunting has long been a part of their heritage, were not too eager to abandon the hunting, which could earn them $500 in five weeks (for reference, the median annual income in India is $616). In addition, the area’s private schools, which “depended largely on money generated by falcon hunting”, are struggling with the hunting ban.
However, the villagers realized that the preservation of the same falcons they had hunted could present them with another hopeful economic opportunity: tourism. With hopes of enthusiastic bird watchers flocking to the Pangti region just as the Amur falcons do during their migration, the villagers have begun preparing their home for such a prospect, constructing birding platforms throughout the villagers and even installing new tourist-friendly toilets.
The largest factor in getting the locals on board with falcon preservation was the addition of falcon preservation into the educational programs of local schools, teaching children the values of preserving nature. The kids sing songs about the falcons, and colorful posters advocating preservation now decorate the classrooms. Once the children decided to support preservation, it did not take long for the rest of the village to follow. “So many of the children decided very fast for preservation,” said a member of the local fishermen’s union. “So that is the main reason we are in for total preservation.”
While the Amur falcon, with a prodigious global population, was never in any danger as a species, this story is important in demonstrating how proponents of preservation can convince others of their message through education, and young people play an especially crucial role in ending harmful traditions of hunting and slaughter. We as a generation have the power, and the responsibility, to change the future for the benefit of the environment.