Hundreds of birds get injured during Makar Sankranti and that is when Save Birds Kandivali NGO comes to the rescue.
Makar Sankranti is a kite-flying festival celebrated with great vigor in some parts of India. The rooftops of buildings and high-rises in a city like Mumbai are thronged with people, and the sky is filled with the colors of kites. However, what comes with the exuberance of celebrations is agony for the mute creatures. A multitude of birds get injured due to the tangling of manjha (threads) in their legs or even die due to a slit in their throat. These birds are not left in pain; they are treated well, all thanks to the Save Birds Kandivali NGO in Mumbai, which has been doing this exceptional work for 18 years.
An act of compassion
While walking the streets of Mumbai in 2005, Rita Shah, a local resident of Kandivali, found an injured bird badly wounded by manjha. She called some of the local boys to take care of it. The boys removed the thread from the bird's legs and provided basic treatment until it was back on its feet. After this incident, Rita consistently thought about the hundreds of such birds that could get injured and left without any treatment to die. That's when she gathered the boys who had saved that bird and expressed her idea of starting a bird camp, engaging in this social activity on an everyday basis.
The boys wholeheartedly embraced this social cause and diligently learned the basics of bird treatment. They acquired skills ranging from holding a bird properly and providing hydrating solutions to technically removing threads and dressing wounds. A common contact number was circulated in the vicinity and surrounding areas, allowing anyone who found an injured bird to contact them. This initiative received praise from many, but appreciation alone was not sufficient. The boys needed funds to procure various equipment such as rods and medicines for bird treatment. Jay Shah, one of the early and active members of the NGO, reflects on the initial challenges, stating, 'Initially, we used a bamboo or plastic stick to rescue birds from heights due to limited resources and knowledge.
Hands that work for others get the support of others
As the saying goes, many hands come forward when we are truly invested in good work. The team, which started with just 5 to 6 members in Kandivali, has now evolved into a registered NGO with 300 members, including 170 active volunteers and 5 bird camps in Kandivali alone, along with at least one camp at each station from Borivali to Andheri. Their system is so well-integrated that the team reaches the destination within 20 to 25 minutes of the call during Makar Sankranti. Once they rescue the bird, it is taken to the nearest centers and given basic treatment by the volunteers. If serious treatment is required, there is a vet available to conduct surgery or any complicated procedure. The bird is safely kept at the medical center and treated daily by the members until it is back on its feet and ready to spread its wings in the sky. Once recovered, the team releases the bird, allowing it to take flight from an open ground near the center and return to its natural abode.
They take risks so that the birds get their flight back
There is joy in seeing a bird regain its flight and soar where it belongs, but at times, the volunteers of this NGO risk their lives, going truly out of their way to rescue a bird. The team goes to great lengths to save the birds, climbing trees, navigating terrace roofs, and even entering risky places. Jay Shah emphasizes, 'We do not encourage them to undertake these activities and call the fire brigade when things are beyond our control. We believe that if we are safe, we can save more birds. However, sometimes immediate action is crucial, and we can't wait for others to arrive.' Due to their unwavering commitment and love for these winged souls, the team saves around 15,000 birds every year. The members of Save Birds rescued 300 birds in a single day when Cyclone Tauktae hit Mumbai in May 2021.
Save Birds continues to commit itself to protecting these creatures at any cost and in any situation, urging people to support their initiative by refraining from flying kites during Makar Sankranti or, at the very least, using raw manjhas instead of sharp nylon and china manjhas. Jay appeals, 'Makar Sankranti is a festival of unity, providing an opportunity for people to gather with friends and family, share sweet treats, or even volunteer in saving the lives of birds.
If you find any injured bird you can contact the below-mentioned helplines.
Save Birds Helpline: Kandivali - 84518 99899, Mumbai - 86553 70005.