In couple of days, entire Gujarat will be celebrating the kite-flying festival more popularly known as Uttarayan on 14-15th January every year. This festival is full of celebrations, fun, frolic, colorful kites, music and chikkis(peanut chips). It is a time when kites rule the sky-in every sense of the word!
Sadly, the process of kite flying involves the use of killer-strings viz., manjas, which are rubbed with glass and rice to make it razor sharp so that one kite-flyer is able to cut another kite-flyer’s kite! These are sharp enough to cut a human’s throat. You can imagine the plight of our winged friends.
Every year thousands– yes! Thousands of birds get cut and are grounded for life, many of them bleed to death, in just this two days. The most common victims are not only pigeons (nearly 1500 of them get cut only in Ahmedabad every year) but also vultures, peacocks, kites, egrets, parakeets,…, migratory birds like flamingo and pelican who come all the way from European countries to Gujarat to spend their winters here find themselves or their “flock-mates” handicapped or dead due our Uttarayan “celebrations”.
As per this year’s (11-17th January 2011) informal statistics, about 2350 birds were injured in these two days, including:
Alexandrine parakeet, Bank Myna, Barn Owl, Black Ibis, Black Kite, Black-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, Budgerigar, Cattle Egret, Combed Duck, Coppersmith Barbet, Cuckoo, Dove, Egyptian Vulture, Flamingo, Fruit Bat, Glossy Ibis, Green Bee Eater, House Crow, House Swift, Mottled Wood Owl, Painted Stork, Peafowl, Peregrine Falcon, Red-wattled Lapwing, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Rosy Pastor, Saras Crane, Shikra, Spotted Owlet, White-rumped Vulture, White-throated Kingfisher.
Help the Birds is a volunteer driven campaign with immense support from the staff and facilities of Doctors, CAs, Lawyers, Researchers, Academicians, Managers, Environmentalists, Artists, Social Workers, Activists, Corporate Executives, Business professionals, Housewives, Students, Organizations- who believe in this cause, come together every year to make this campaign happen.
The injuries caused to our winged friends during just two days (14-15th January), takes months to recover. It takes lot of efforts in setting up a well equipped Avian Hospital, to take care of these injured birds for 2-3 months since the festival begins. The departments of avian hospital include:
1) Call centre
Call centre comprises of Bird Help-line numbers, on which people across the city contact in case of bird-injury. The calls are then transferred to the rescue team closest to the rescue call. Call centre is managed by a team of 10 volunteers.
2) Rescue team
Approximately 800 volunteers are spread across the Ahmedabad city for rescuing injured birds. Rescue team collects the injured bird and brings it to hospital. Volunteers engaged in rescue use private vehicles to reach at different destinations for rescuing injured birds. Birds are transported in plastic baskets.
3) Registration desk
The bird-complain in registered, bird is weighed, case – sheet is prepared and then it is immediately transferred to operation theatre. Registration desk is managed by a team of 6 volunteers
4) Medical Store
Various medicines, first-aid kits and miscellaneous things required for treatment of birds are maintained in a medical store managed by 4 volunteers.
5) Operation theatres (OT)
There are two well equipped operation theatres with a common X-ray machine, for surgery and treatment of injured birds. In each OT there’s gas anesthesia machine, four operation tables, set of medicines, autoclave, disinfectants and surgical instruments.
The team of doctors comprises of Avian specialist doctors coming from various parts of the country. Necessary arrangements for their travel, lodging and boarding are managed by Help the Birds team.
Operated birds are shifted to Intensive Care Unit and kept under observation in fumigated room. Small cages are required in ICU for keeping birds of different species separately. As its winter season, a few heaters are also kept to keep the room warm. ICU is maintained by a team of 4 volunteers.
7) Recovery Cell
From ICU birds are shifted to recovery cell in larger cages. Birds are given follow up treatment and complete care till they are completely healed and ready for release, which takes months. Birds of different species are given food according to their habits and their cages are set as per their habitat. Small artificial ponds are also constructed for wetland and water birds. Being the most significant unit, as recovery cell has to be maintained atleast for 2-3 months, a regular manpower is required on rotational basis.
Besides these, arrangement of food and refreshments for all the volunteers is also managed by Help the Birds team.