Amur Falcon, the Untold Story of 'Tamenglong mandarin' oranges of northeast India

Urmila Chanam
Posted January 12, 2019 from India
One Amur Falcon, female, fitted with satellite radio transmitter flew from Tamenglong in northeast India to Somalia, Asia to Africa in just 5 days
Tamenglong's Oranges are famous and its orchards are a sight to behold in this hill district
Tamenglong's Oranges are famous and its orchards are a sight to behold in this hill district (1/5)

Every winter in the month of November, Amur Falcons, one of the least known birds among 69 falcon species, fly to Manipur’s Tamenglong district all the way from eastern Siberia near the north east region of China to rest at least for a month in Tamenglong before continuing their flight over central Indian plain and the Arabian Sea to head for East Africa. Amur Falcons stay three months in Africa before heading for China, Russia and Mongolia.

(The migratory route of Amur falcons is available in the picture gallery of this story.)

Tamenglong is home to these beautiful exotic birds for almost a month anytime from late October to November. 

Two such Amur Falcons, a female and a male were fitted with satellite radio transmitters by the Forest Department, Government of Manipur and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) at a roosting site at Chiuluan village in Tamenglong on 5th November 2018 and released thereafter to study their migratory route.

The female Amur falcon named ‘Tamenglong’ took a non-stop five day long migratory journey from 19th November and reached Somalia on 24th November 2018.

To the people of Tamenglong, an isolate district which did not have proper roads till recently and suffers from long spells of power cut, Amur falcon Tamenglong’s intercontinental flight is being equated to hope for development to reach the people of the region. Meanwhile, the male Amur falcon named ‘Manipur’ was met by ill fate and killed by hunters in Kebuching bordering Tamenglong and Noney. 

By sheer coincidence it cannot be that the female Amur falcons have an orange eye-ring, a red cere and reddish orange feet as if nature has color-coded these birds to the function that they have in orange farming. These birds that touch the shores of three continents- Asia, Africa and Europe during its migration, feed on insects and termites, the same kind that are destroying orange trees in Tamenglong thereby preventing destruction of rice, other crops, vegetables and fruits in particularly orange trees. Farmers who have been growing oranges for nearly 50 years and with families who have grown oranges for more than five generations assign good harvest to Amur falcons and call for people to stop hunting them.

Famous for its sweet and pulpy oranges, Tamenglong mandarin and the Indian Wild Orange or Citrus indica, Tamenglong has rich biodiversity- tropical evergreen forests, plants, medicinal plants, different varieties of trees, animals, insects and birds and people not only possess good knowledge about the flora and fauna but also proactively work to protect it.

In a discussion with elders at the Traditional Custom Art and Culture Society in Dailong village, a biodiversity heritage site, they shared how they had managed to maintain the biggest bio reserve forest by putting in place rules that ban hunting of birds and animals and steps they had undertaken to protect the plants, trees, medicinal plants, fruit trees in the village. They are also guided by tribal beliefs on use of natural resources like water from springs and fountains.

( Picture of village elders available in picture gallery with this article.)

The Chairman of Village Authority of Dailong village. Mr. Keijinbui shared an age- old belief,

Our forefathers told us never to sell water in exchange for money, benefits or services. We were warned that if we sell water our source of water will dry up.”

( The video posted with this article is of village elders entering the forest singing a folk song to make peace with the flora and fauna)

Elders mention animals found here include Bengal Tiger that passes through the Assam border into Tamenglong and has been spotted by farmers in the ‘Longkhui’ forest and ‘Khwaikhou’ cliff area, monkey, porcupine, deer, wild cat, leopard, fruit bat, giant squirrel locally known as ‘Joukluk’, a foul smelling white coloured rat-like animal locally known as ‘Adoi’, wild boar ‘Chabuam’, omnivorous civet ‘Ahui’ which climbs trees and eats banana, pangolin ‘Mphou’, hyaena, ‘Sabu’, lizard ‘Tampuang’ and flying lizard ‘Tampuang sammei’.

Jungle fowl ‘Arik’, bamboo patridge ‘Amukna’, blue vented bulbul, myna ‘Roisong’,hoopoe ‘Tengpangriang’ a migratory bird, ‘Zeipui’ feathers of which are used in making head accessories during the cultural dance of Rongmei Nagas, ‘Aringa’, green pigeon ‘Ajuihna’ the sweetest sounding bird, ‘Angau’ a bird which sings only  in a particular time during the day served as time keeper in olden times for farmers to guide them when to go to the field, midday and when to return home and Amur falcon ‘Akhuaipuina’ are birds found in Tamenglong. ‘Phengphengpui’ is a unique butterfly which takes colour of the flower it sits on and makes a ‘pheng’ sound at night.

Many medicinal plants grow abundantly in Tamenglong and people rely on these rather than on medicines. ‘Tadi’ medicinal plant roots can be boiled and applied on feet for relieving pain. The bark of ‘Lengchi’ tree is pounded and applied on an open wound for instant coagulation of blood from injury by farmers. The bark of ‘Parin’ is also used for stopping bleeding. Secretion from ‘Tamanloi’ plant when applied on eyes cures eye infections and blurred vision. ‘Taji’ plant leaves are used as anti- malarial. The roots and leaves of creeper ‘Banamloi’ are used for healing fractured bones by applying its paste. If boiled and consumed it relives stomach pain, gastritis and dysentery. ‘Japanpunui’ medicinal plant is anti- diarrhoeal. People also believe that drinking water from the perennial spring ‘Phuduikhunpang’ located 3 km from Dailong will cure them of all diseases.

( Picture of medicinal plants available in the gallery of the article.)

Very little is known about this beautiful hill district in Manipur which is home to vibrant tribal cultures of Rongmei, Liangmei, Zemei, Inpui and Kuki tribes, where people are driven to preserve their forests, landscapes are spotted with orange orchards and drained by rivers Barak, Irang, Makhru, Iring, Ijei and Apah. Tamenglong is also the birthplace of Haipou Jadonang (1905-1931) the freedom fighter, patriot and martyr who was hanged by the British on 29th August 1931 in Imphal Jail on false charges of murder. Young Jadonang was described by British writers as the ‘maiba’(shaman), medicine man, healer, witch doctor, sorcerer, Naga king, messiah, ‘seer of Kambiron’ or rebellious prophet but the people revered him as a man of God, prophet, spiritual and political leader of the people.

I will, however always choose Tamenglong as my holiday destination for its Amur falcons.

                                                                                                       * * * * *

This story was originally published in the local newspapers of Manipur in India which is inhabited by different indigenous and tribal communities during an annual farming festival called Tamenglong Orange Festival which is held from 8th-10th December every year to  celebrate its oranges 'Tamenglong mandarin' and encourage its orange growers.

The writer is a World Pulse Voices of Our Future alumni.

 

 

 

This post was submitted in response to Share Your Story On Any Topic.

Comments 11

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jlanghus
Jan 13
Jan 13

Hi Urmila,

What a great read. I love how the indigenous people are so intuitive, are preserving all their natural resources (or attempting to) and that they are also preserving all those traditions. So cool what the plants are used for. Plants are so amazing and have so many healing properties. I'm sad to hear about poor Manipur, though:( Too bad they can't be hunted. I hope that changes. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story, photos and videos with us, and good luck with your story submission.

I hope you're doing well:-)

Urmila Chanam
Jan 13
Jan 13

Dear Jill,
Thanks for all the love and interest; the wisdom in the community is profound. Their stories are all lying with them because they live an isolated life due to logistic challenges. I used one medicinal plant when I had severe migraine during my stay. One of my host thawed it over fire and jumbled it into a ball in her fist and fomented my head. It worked like magic. I wish efforts are made to identify these plants especially their common names so the information may be communicated for targeted effort to market them for enhanced income. I am doing great my sister, hope the new year is proving to be good to you too.

Much love always,
Urmila Chanam,
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

jlanghus
Jan 14
Jan 14

Hello there:-)

You're very welcome. It sounds like it!

Your migraine experience is amazing. Yes, that would be great if there was more awareness, and even marketing for these medicinal plants. Do you like homeopathy, aromatherapy, Bach remedies, and/or floral essences? They're all very powerful.

Great to hear that you're doing very well:-) Yes, it is, thanks!

Hope you have a great day!

Urmila Chanam
Jan 14
Jan 14

Oh sister Jill, I tried homeopathy for stones in the gall bladder 5 years back but it did not contain the problem and I had to have an emergency surgery to remove the trouble making organ itself. After that episode, I have refrained from relying on homeopathy. I do use lot of home remedies like for my tonsillitis or throat pain I make a potion of cinnamon, turmeric and holy basil and it works wonders for me. I am impressed by the medicinal plants in Tamenglong and community's knowledge about them. Have a great week ahead.

Love and hugs, Urmila Chanam

jlanghus
Jan 14
Jan 14

Oh, I see:-( Eek. I don't blame you.

Hmm. Your throat remedy sounds interesting. I want to try plant medicines for my adrenal fatigue. I need to take time to look into it more. I use the Bach remedies quite a lot, though. They seem quite potent. I also tried CBD oil for anxiety and that seems to be very powerful as well. Yes, those medicinal plants sound awesome.

You, too!

Beth Lacey
Jan 13
Jan 13

Great story!

Urmila Chanam
Jan 14
Jan 14

Sister, Beth, I am so happy this story has reached you. Look at the wonder of World Pulse, our voices are able to reach another continent, be understood and felt. I gave my recommendation to the government there to make Amur falcons the mascot of the Orange Festival and also to ban its hunting. Thanks for supporting me and my work. God bless you.

Loads of love from India,
Urmila Chanam,
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

ARREY - ECHI
Jan 14
Jan 14

Dear Sis Urmi,
What a beautiful story. It is filled with wealth and wisdom of a people determined to preserve their heritage. As I read about the falcons, I couldn't help smiling that the female falcon had to make that trip and survive. It points to the resilience of the female gender against all odds.

Love from Cameroon.

Urmila Chanam
Jan 14
Jan 14

Oh my sister! I was waiting for someone to notice that the female Amur falcon made a journey across oceans from Asia to Africa in just 5 days. The female power! A big kiss to you for getting that.

Hugs
Urmila Chanam

ARREY - ECHI
Jan 14
Jan 14

A force to reckon with indeed, the female power!
Thank you again for sharing.
Hugs back at you.

Millynairi
Jan 17
Jan 17

I really enjoy reading your stories dear.