Saving Delhi’s Raptors – The New Indian Express
Express news service
NEW DELHI: If you had ever had the opportunity to look away from your digital devices to the open sky, you would probably have seen a kite with its wings rising. There are a few that sit on top of tall buildings; others even play hide and seek near Delhi’s imposing minarets. These birds look majestic, which clearly shows us why they are called the kings of the clouds. However, a visit to Wazirabad Wildlife Rescue and you will be forced to realize how vulnerable these birds of prey can be. The cases of this animal shelter, started by Nadeem Shehzad and his brother Mohammad Saud, will put things in perspective and eventually make you aware of the serious threats we inadvertently pose to birds and other animals.
We enter Wildlife Rescue on a Thursday and find a few cages neatly stacked on top of each other. There is a spotted owl in a cage at the bottom, a few black kites in the one above, a pigeon, a kitten and a few squirrels follow one another. In a steel tray filled with water on the corner, there is a turtle – brutally attacked by a pack of dogs. As we watch the birds amid the restless meowing of the restless cat, Saud enters with his cousin Salik. We are told that they have just received a batch of 12 injured birds of prey from Charity Bird Hospital in Chandni Chowk. Saud takes one of the birds – a black kite common to the capital – from the cardboard box used to transport it. Majestic but helpless, the kite stood still, almost as if it didn’t know what its fate might be. Inspecting the injured bird after unfolding its wing wrap, Saud said, “This one has multiple bone fractures. It’s an open wound and I’m not sure if it will ever fly. After giving it to the bird a few drops of Melonex to relieve his pain, he only lets the kitten out to make room in the cage for three injured kites.
Sensing our curiosity for the deep wound, Saud begins to detail the cause. Most of the birds that are transported to Wildlife Rescue are injured by the glass powder coated cotton ropes called manja, which are commonly used in kite flight. This deadly thread on a spool has been a threat to animals and humans. A 23-year-old biker lost his life to this kite rope near Pitampura in August this year. News reports said Charity Bird Hospital received more than 100 cases of injured birds on August 13-14 this year (kite flying is a tradition on Independence Day in India). Even though it was banned in Delhi in 2017, manja is still sold and distributed in local shops in the city. Saud says, “We get between eight and 10 cases a day. In fact, in the last two days we’ve received 12 cases, and it’s not even kite season. Most of these birds are brought here due to their clipped wings due to skin, muscle or bone injuries. ”
With a team of five: Saud, his brother Shehzad (who is in the US for a documentary shoot), Salik (a masters student who spends more than eight hours in the rescue), helps with rescue operations and a part-time veterinarian doctor, Wildlife Rescue has helped over 2,200 birds since January of this year. Besides kites, they also treated and cared for other feathered animals such as lapwing, cattle egret, white stork, Egyptian vultures, barbettes, pigeons, etc.
Help feathered friends
Saud talks about their trip, mentioning that from an early age the brothers fed and rescued squirrels, among other smaller animals. He recalls: “When we were about five or six years old, we rowed abandoned kittens at home. When they were around 10 years old, the brothers found a baby dove in Old Delhi. They took care of the orphan bird and returned it to its habitat within weeks. This, Saud recalls, was their first rehabilitation.
In the 1900s, the siblings found an injured Black Kite and took him to Charity Bird Hospital (an organization that is over 90 years old and was started by the Jain community). The hospital refused to treat the bird because it was a scavenger (the Jains believe in ahimsa; they are also strict vegetarians, so it would be impossible for them to feed a carnivorous kite). “It really touched us. What if it’s a raptor and eats meat? Does that mean he has no right to be treated?
Not knowing how to treat the bird, they couldn’t help it. After that, every once in a while they would find injured kites but never bring one home until 2003. Saud says, “We brought a wounded black kite home and decided on it. help one way or another. He had a broken bone and there was nothing we could do to help him fly again. He stayed with us for about 12 years, until his death.
In the meantime, the brothers were sure they would never forget another injured animal or bird. Soon they were rescuing and rehabilitating injured birds one after another. He adds, “In no time, people found out we were doing this. They started sending us injured birds. We were volunteering at the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Center, and they also started sending raptors here, ”Saud adds.
Since then, they have helped all kinds of raptors and waterfowl, among other animals. In fact, they receive injured birds from different parts of Delhi, as well as from the Delhi Fire Department and Delhi Forest Department. When asked how difficult it is to get birds back into the wild, given that young birds often refuse to feed once they have received food from a human source, Saud explains: “The bird should not imprint itself on the human. If so, it will not survive in the wild. During our first rehabilitation, the dove came home for a month. The last time he returned was with his companion. He specifies that the same is true for kites and other birds of prey: “The rehabilitated baby kites continue to come back to us for two or three months after their return to nature. Part of our bird enclosure is open 24 hours a day so these birds can come back to us when needed. ”
Listening to Saud speak in his usual soft but enthusiastic voice, we’re sure he spends hours helping these birds of prey. Saud agrees and says he’s trying to create a balance in life. Smiling shyly, his wife Shabnam (33), who greets us as we enter their house – in a building one minute from the rented space – makes it clear that she is not very happy with her busy schedule. : “Of course he’s doing a great deed. But he’s so busy all day that I hardly ever see him, ”she complains.
Chip in for beeps
We head straight to the second floor of their house; we are in an enclosure where 100 or more black kites are sitting next to each other. There is a black-eared kite (a migratory bird) as well as two Egyptian vultures right next to a large platter of minced raw chicken. A crow also serves food on the board thanks to the kite’s no objection. Next to this space, the siblings started building five new enclosures for the owls and squirrels.
Explaining to us how the birds, once healed, are moved from the rented space to this partially enclosed area, Saud says, “When the treatment is over and the bird gets better, we do something we call a release. slowly. The bird is training to fly. In fact, we designed the enclosure in such a way that unless the bird can fly well for 10 feet at a particular angle, it cannot take off. Later, once he’s gone, he can come back from the open space in case he doesn’t have any water or food. Of course, the few unfortunate birds of prey who are seriously injured with no sign of recovery or who are in excessive pain are euthanized and then cremated.
Avifauna enthusiasts often know how difficult it is to find a veterinarian who specializes in treating birds. Saud agrees, adding, “Vets in India mostly know how to treat cats, dogs or cattle. Birds, being smaller creatures, are often difficult to deal with. Also, unlike other animals, birds (especially wild birds) are not part of any trade or business. Luckily for the siblings, their avian vet, who visits the shelter once or twice a week, knows how to treat injured birds after working with them for about seven years.
Although he has a veterinarian on board, Saud says he and Shehzad are well equipped to perform surgeries on the birds. He mentions: “We are linked to the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) in the United States. In fact, Shehzad was one of nine people who received a scholarship from the NWRA in 2015. We were happy to go to the United States because we thought it would help us learn more about avian surgeries. Unfortunately, we were told that repairing wings for birds is impossible. When we mentioned that we had tried the same on raptors, they asked us to document the cases to prove our claim. The duo were back and chronicled the surgeries as well as videos of birds flying after recovering. “Later, when I received a similar NWRA scholarship in 2018, we featured an article on orthopedic surgery,” he says.
On a monthly basis, they pay more than Rs 35,000 for medicine, food, staff salaries, relief transport, electricity and rent for space. The brothers, who together own a bathroom fixture manufacturing business, would previously spend over 95% of the cost out of pocket. But now, thanks to a number of domestic and foreign donations, this cost has been reduced.
As we descend a staircase to the first floor, Saud shows us an enclosure where we see a painted stork rescued with some kites and two Egyptian vultures. Among other things, Saud emphasizes the importance of raptors, often referred to as nature’s clean-up crews, in protecting the health of the ecosystem. He said, “You will find a number of these raptors near the Ghazipur dump. These scavengers are very important in keeping the ecosystem clean. In a day, a raptor will eat between 50 g and 100 g of food. With a population of around 50,000 or more of these scavengers in Delhi, imagine how many tons of trash they would go through and how they would keep the city clean. So what can be done to help these raptors? Saud concludes that not only an understanding of the importance of these raptors, but also the recognition of the government for helping these raptors would be a good place to start: “It would be nice to get some help from the government or even some ground to. rent to create a beautiful configuration for the rescue and rehabilitation of raptors.