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Exotic birds downed by kite strings

Gaurav Raghuvanshi

Ahmedabad , Jan. 26

IT has been 10 days since the kite festival got over in Ahmedabad, but the deadly `manja' or kite string left behind after the event is still bringing down scores of birds in the city.

Uttarayan, the festival that heralds the beginning of the northward journey of the sun, is the time for an international kite festival in Ahmedabad and virtually every household in the city launches thousands of colourful kites into the sky.

But the January 14 festival is the worst time for the city's avian population as birds get snagged in the kite string, especially `manja', that is laced with powdered glass to make it sharp enough to "cut" others' kites in friendly matches that mark the two-day festivities.

The year has been particularly bad for the white rumped vulture, a highly endangered bird that has been placed in the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act. Out of an approximate population of 80-90 birds, 16 white rumped vultures have been injured during Uttarayan this year.

"There is a colony of white rumped vultures in the Shahibaug area that had 17 birds. Nine members of that colony are down this year. Being heavy birds, their cuts are rather deep and we will need to keep them for several weeks before we can release them again," says Soham Mukherjee of Animal Help Foundation (AHF), a non-governmental organisation that runs an avian hospital on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

In 2005, nearly 1,400 injured birds had been brought to the AHF shelter. Nearly 70 per cent of them died. This year, AHF started receiving its avian patients on January 7 and nearly 450 birds have been brought in. The number of bird deaths has been comparatively lower at about 100, Mukherjee told Business Line.

"We had flown in an avian veterinarian, Dr Andrew Routh, from the London Zoo, apart from experts from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Nepal. Elaborate efforts had been made to reduce bird mortality during Uttarayan," he says.

But an alarming aspect has been that endangered and exotic birds have fallen victim to the kite strings this year. These include a flamingo, woolly neck stork, painted stork, northern pintail ducks and pelican. The bulk of the population of injured birds is made up of pigeons, kites and peacocks.

AHF is also working with the Gujarat state Wildlife Department to find ways to remove the `manja' strings and kites hanging from trees that are still acting as booby traps for birds.

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