I have just got back from working as part of a team supported by Wildlife Vets International (WVI), at the Avian A&E held at Jivdaya Charitable Trust (JCT), Ahmedabad, India.
Some of you might remember I worked on the project last year, (read all about that here: Avian A&E 2018), so I felt very privileged to be able to return this year.
The Avian A&E is set up every year to deal with casualties resulting from the International Kite Flying festival, which takes place during Uttarayan each year. As part of the festival, participants fly kites from roof tops with the aim of taking down their opponents kite. To do this the kite string used, known locally as manja, is very sharp and cuts like wire. Traditionally it was covered in powdered glass, but more recently very fine abrasive string has been used that scratches the skin when you touch it, so you can imagine the damage it does when a bird flies straight into it.
Sadly, the numbers were higher than ever this year, when I left last year we had reached bird number 2600, this year when I left we were over 3100 birds and counting, and within a week of me leaving the project, my colleague had seen bird number 4000.
The numbers are frightening, and the injuries are horrific.
I was fortunate to be working as part of an amazing team, WVI sent two veterinary surgeons and two veterinary nurses, to assist with the save the birds campaign. We worked alongside a great team of local veterinarians to try our best to provide treatment to the masses of injured birds and small mammals.
Sadly we can’t fix everything, with injuries too catastrophic and debilitating there is only so much that can be done. This poor Ibis was dead on arrival, and as you can see from the graphic photo below, the kite string had caused extensive injuries to the muscle, wing and bone, and catastrophic blood loss.
We treated multiple different species, including black kites, black and white ibis, fruit bats, bar headed geese, flamingo, pelicans and storks to name a few.
Kite string injuries don’t discriminate.
So what was different this year?
We are in an unfortunately unique situation to have a large number of injured Black Kites among other species present at the Avian A&E at JCT. This affords us the opportunity to conduct research to find out about important clinical features of these wild animals that were previously unknown. This research is invaluable in the field, as it can be used by the teams in India to change protocols on how certain species are treated in the future, for example our project on anaesthesia of Black Kites last year showed that we should always ventilate these birds wherever possible, so this is something we put into practice this year.
This year we expanded this research, and in addition, surveyed a population of Black Kites to see if they were affected by heavy metal toxicity, with the hope being the results of this research will further enhance the care of injured wild birds, and importantly provide training to the local vets on how to check for these toxicities themselves.
These skills are applicable to all bird species, so invaluable skills to have when dealing with critically endangered species when they are presented at the clinic.
These are just two examples of how WVI are not only supporting the treatment of injured birds at JCT, but also supporting an increase in local knowledge and an ongoing improvement in clinical protocols.
I am hopeful that in the future we will see a reduction in the number of kites being flown, through education of local communities and a change in culture, and as a result a reduction in the horrendous injuries and number of casualties presented at the clinic. However whilst we are getting to that point, the research and education which WVI facilitate is vital in improving the welfare of the injured wild animals in our care.
If you would like to donate to any of the Wildlife Vets International projects please follow this link: https://www.wildlifevetsinternational.org/donate