A prayer for the birds of prey


Kites Vs Vites

It happened one day, when Nadeem and Saud found a kite with its flight clipped ironically by the kite manja that a lot of birds fall prey to every year during the kite-flying season. These seemingly competent birds of prey succumb to their injuries lying on the ground waiting to die as they are unable to feed themselves with their wings injured.

Delhi, like most other metro cities in India, does not have sufficient number of bird hospitals and the ones that exist often reject birds of prey as they have to be fed non-vegetarian food which these hospitals can't source for several reasons. Having been refused by the hospital, 15 years back, Nadeem and Saud decided to take these derelicts under their own wing. They brought the kite into their home, into their lives. They nursed this kite and sheltered it and did not stop at it, within a few months this shelter was home to several injured, ignored and homeless birds.

Birds of prey that we love:

Starting with Rufus - Rufus the Hawk is a Harris's Hawk used by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to keep pigeons away from their venue. Described as an "important member of the Wimbledon family",[1] Rufus has been scaring away the birds for fifteen years, taking over from the previous hawk, Hamish.

And then the fictional ones

Hedwig – Harry Potter's snowy owl

Thorondor, Gwaihir, Landroval – Eagles in The Lord of the Rings

Chil - A male kite who helps rescueMowgli from the monkeys in The Jungle Book

Fenghuang – The owl from Kung Fu Panda

Equipping on care giving

If there are less veterinary hospitals, there is even lesser information and expertise available to treat these birds, so the duo educated themselves on how to provide medical care for these ailing birds with fractured limbs or torn wings. Unfortunately, the degree of proficiency and expertise available to treat even the most viable commercial animal, dog, is very low and so Nadeem and Saud have matured to provide guidance to vets who haven't dealt with birds of prey before.

Garuda is a bird creature from Hindu mythology that has a mix of eagle and human features. He is the vehicle (vahana) of Vishnu and appears on the god's banner. Garuda represents birth and heaven, and is the enemy of all snakes.

Garuda is a part of state insignia in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. The Brahminy kite is the official mascot of Jakarta. In Hinduism, it is considered as the contemporary representation of Garuda, the sacred bird of Vishnu.

The tenth master of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh Ji had many titles bestowed upon him, one of the most beautiful was 'Chittay baaja wala", the keeper of the white falcon. Guru Ji held darbar (court) where he met Rajas and emperors as well as the poor and needy. Guru Ji is often portrayed in paintings with a sword draped along his side with royal plumes decorating his turban and holding a white bird of prey, the Baaz. The word Baaz is Sanskrit in origin and mostly it is agreed that it refers to a falcon as opposed to a hawk. If the historical anecdotes are to be believed then it is most likely that the 'white bird of prey' which the 10th Guru handled was a Gyrfalcon. (http://www.sikhfoundation.org/family-corner/birds-animals-of-the-guru-granth-sahib-the-falcon-baaz/)

Having mastered this science and perfected the art of nursing, the savior duo are almost always recommended not just by Delhi police but by most vet hospitals too. Nadeem and Saud have assumed the complete responsibility of these imposing birds in their vulnerable state and not just rear them back to health but provide for them to breed and grow. It is very moving to learn that their entire family have spent many a sleepless nights to feed and care for the young ones of these birds during the breeding season.

It is very hard going for them as they selflessly nurture this almost extinct population with a self-cultivated, deep understanding and subject matter expertise in this rare care which they fund financially too from their humble family occupation.

Evidence suggests that art of Falconry may have begun in Mesopotamia, in Mongolia and China, with the earliest accounts dating to approximately 2000 BC. Courtesy: www.flyingfalcons.co.uk

When axing a tree is axing a specie

While we are witnessing the impact deforestation globally, it impacts birds directly - tree felling renders many birds and their young ones homeless overnight. Nadeem and Saud provide for them right from their transportation, to medical care, to shelter and food for them. The whole family has joined forces to feed the owls in the night as they, we know, are nocturnal birds. Just for the love of this ignored species of our ecology.

We as a community know a lot less about our environment and the ecological cycles and ignore the very important role played by owls, eagles, kites and vultures in ridding the environment of dead animal dump and owls are very instrumental in ridding our fields of the crop-eating rats.

The often quoted Book of St. Albans, first printed in 1486, often attributed to Dame Julia Berners, provides hierarchy of hawks and the social ranks for which each bird was supposedly appropriate. The eagles and vultures were fit for the emperor. Courtesy: www.flyingfalcons.co.uk

They too could be restricted to picture books

Another lesser known fact is that a drug like Diclofenac, prescribed to cattle for arthritis, renders the birds of prey terminally ill with diseases such as renal or kidney failure, when it feeds on the dead cattle. This also brings to the forefront the lack of a cattle mortalities system in our villages or even cities. Raptors have been the dead animal clearing service in our country for a millennia or more. This has led to the vulture population decreasing from 2 million in Delhi to a mere 2 lakhs, just over the last 15 years. The alarming rate of vulture expiration and the dead mass of the cattle left to drain the soil in the absence of an efficient disposal system poisons the soil and the underground water sources like wells in our villages.

There's hope still: A community in Chandni Chowk follows a tradition of providing meat on their rooftops for raptors, it's a diminishing practice but nevertheless some glimpses are still to be seen.

Time for action

Having received a lot of social acclaim and awards for their almost heroic contribution to our society and environment, Nadeem and Saud, now residents of Wazirabad, treat thousands and thousands of birds each year without any financial aid for their noble task. With a thousand corporate houses functioning in Delhi and a million trusts would it be very daunting task to adopt this mission so that more and more raptors can be rescued and the ecological balance restored? Can more people volunteer in all earnestness to rub shoulders with this duo and share some of their work load? Can we spread the word about the perils of kite flying and other such games that human beings play? Can we spare some of our fortune and share with these saviors so that they can employ more care givers for their shelter and research further for the greater good of the world we live in? Any takers?

Vandana Verma

Vandana Verma

Experimenting with life and presenting it as I see it.

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