The beauty of India lies in its diverse religions and cultures that seamlessly blend in with the ebbs and flows of the modernizing country. The result of this religious diversity is evident in the multitude of festivals that the country observes – all with their distinct traditions and ways of celebrating. One such festival is Makar Sankranti. This harvest festival marks the end of winters and the beginnings of longer days in which crops flourish. At this festival, individuals rejoice through a particular activity that has become no less than a sport in the country – kite flying! Millions of kites dot the Indian sky on the day of Makar Sankranti, flying as fast as the wind. While this kite-laden sky is a sight for sore eyes, it is essentially a death trap for the avian population of India.
Every year during Makar Sankranti a multitude of birds fall victim to the deadly manjha – a glass-coated string used to fly kites. So sharp is this manjha that it can cut through the flesh of anyone – be it a human or bird. This string can cut through bones causing permanent and irreparable injury to a bird.
Determined to preserve our diverse avian population, Wildlife SOS collaborated with Eco Rescuers Foundation to set up a free, three-day-long bird treatment camp in the city of Jaipur located in Rajasthan. In this booming city, the festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated with the utmost enthusiasm, making it a hotspot for bird casualties. The camp was strategically set up in the accessible and popular location of Shri Digambar Jain Temple, in Malviya Nagar Jaipur. Wildlife SOS funded the Bird Camp ensuring that state-of-the-art medical facilities such as a fully equipped operation theatre were present. Wildlife SOS Veterinary Officer, Dr. Lalit Jangid also made the arduous journey to Jaipur to provide veterinary care. The camp was no less than a hospital with homeopathic veterinary interns from all over the nation coming to volunteer and learn.
To ensure the camp had a long-lasting impact, it was preceded by a workshop on bird rescue and first aid with homeopathy. Conducted at the Swasthya Kalyan Homeopathic Medical College and Research Centre, the training empowered all concerned citizens with the skills to handle an injured/ sick bird until professional help arrived. The training was attended by our very own bird enthusiasts – Ms. Rakhee Sharma and Mr. Shubham Kumar, two integral members of our Kalandar Rehabilitation Program. As our training imparted knowledge about the identification of bird species, steps to help a bird in need, and many more integral facts – we were ready to commence the three-day bird camp!
Recognizing the importance of the need to conserve the avian population of Jaipur, numerous dignitaries attended the inauguration of the camp on the first day. The Honourable Chief Guest, Smt. Sheel Dabhai, Mayor, Nagar Nigam, Jaipur (Greater) enthusiastically led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate the camp. Other special guests present at the inauguration were Sh. Govind Singh Chhipa, Parshad, Ward Number -131, Nagar Nigam, Jaipur (Greater) and Smt. Jaishree Garg, Pardhad, Ward Number -127, Nagar Nigam, Jaipur (Greater).
With the support of our guests, the camp started with the utmost determination. On the very first day, the veterinary team was busy treating a plethora of pigeons that had got tangled in the deadly Manjha. One particular pigeon was brought in with its wing entwined in a manjha. As a first step, the veterinary team took vitals of the frail bird such as temperature, body weight, etc. Next, our head veterinarians traced the manjha, trying to identify the best way to remove the string from the bird’s wing. The team was shocked to find that the Manjha had cut through the bird’s bone on her right wing. While the manjha was safely removed, the pigeon had to undergo a procedure called intramedullary pinning that would suture the bird’s wing to allow it to fly again.
The manjha often cuts through the nerves of birds on their wings or ligaments. If the right medical attention is not given the bird can lose its ability to fly again. In even more dire situations, the manjha can cause a significant amount of blood loss that can lead to death. We got to see this first hand as the camp received a call about a pigeon profusely bleeding in the garden of a residence. As our rescue team arrived at the location, they were shocked to find a pigeon with a manjha entangled around its body. To ensure that the pigeon does not bleed to death, our rescuers provided the bird with immediate first aid treatment before transporting it to the operation theatre at our camp.
As the day went on we realized that residents of Jaipur had become more aware and empathetic towards birds. People began to bring in birds that were injured not only from the manjha but due to various other reasons. In a dire case, a pigeon was brought into the camp that was barely able to breathe. The unconscious pigeon was on its last few breaths as it was brought into camp just in the nick of time. Our expert veterinarians performed emergency CPR on the bird and were able to revive it!
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of rescuing distressed birds, our veterinarians even found time to impart some training to the veterinary interns. As the veterinarians performed intensive medical procedures and first aid treatment, they narrated what they were doing step by step so interns could replicate the same.
As the camp came to an end, the team had successfully rescued over 50 birds from all over Jaipur! To celebrate the ending of this successful camp, a small certificate ceremony was conducted to reward all the team members for their hard work. What came out of this free bird camp was not only immediate aid to distressed birds but also a newfound appreciation for our avian population and their pivotal role in our wondrous world!