As some of you may know from reading my previous post; Save The Vulture; how you can help!, I travelled to India this month with charity Wildlife Vets International, to assist with the Avian A&E at Jivdaya Charitable Trust, Ahmedabad.
I spent a total of 7 full days on the project, and was fortunate enough to work as part of a great team of people, and help treat a large number of injured birds. The species treated included an Egyptian vulture, a Flamingo, several Pea Fowl, lots of Ibis, tons of Black Kites, an Eagle, two species of Owl, and several Fruit bats – the list goes on, and on. I would be here for several paragraphs more if I listed all the animals we treated. Not to mention the massive effort by a team of vets based at the charity who were treating literally hundreds of injured pigeons every day. I think as we speak, the current total is about to surpass 2600 birds treated over the last month, and that sadly will continue to rise, likely over 3000, even though the festival itself was over several weeks ago.
When an animal arrives at the clinic during the kite festival, it is brought in by a member of the public or in the dedicated bird ambulance to the Jivdaya Charitable Trust, the hospital who provide the avian A&E service.
The animal is examined and given first aid treatment before being taken to one of the operating theatres.
When they arrive at the operating theatre the birds are triaged, their injuries assessed and stabilisation provided in the form of pain relief and fluids, and oxygen supplementation where required.
It is hard to describe in words what it feels like when you open up a transport box and see a poor and helpless animal, bleeding, entangled in kite string and distressed, but you can imagine it is not pleasant. And the boxes keep coming, and the birds keep presenting with awful injuries, from full thickness wing lacerations of not only the ligament but also the underlying muscle structures, and often fractures as well.
Fortunately, many of these birds are treated quickly by experts in their field, many highly skilled local vets and assistants and also international vets and veterinary nurses who travel to India for the kite festival, to offer their expertise and man power. Some of them are fortunate enough to make a full recovery, but many sadly are not, and the casualties do not stop when the festival ends.
The birds continue to arrive for days and weeks after the festival has ended, as they are entangled in left over kite string forming invisible meshes, and some are entangled and then not found for days as they are unable to detangle themselves, and as a result they often are brought in with necrotic wounds, which require heavy debridement and intensive treatment.
The birds are then recovered in a dedicated intensive care unit, where volunteers monitor them around the clock. They have their own case sheet and are administered medications and supportive feed and fluids through crop tubes as per the veterinarians advice.
On average it takes around 2 weeks before the birds are flight tested, and based on that, their release is planned for the following weeks depending on how well their wounds are healing and they are managing to fly.
The birds are released in an area with abundant food and water source, and if any are struggling to fly on release, they are recaptured and taken back to the clinic for further rehabilitation.
We were fortunate enough to assist with one of these releases, and it was truly an amazing experience, and very emotional, to see the light at the end of the tunnel for some of these birds.
This project is an incredible feat, organised by a large team of dedicated vets and volunteers in India, and supplemented by international veterinary professionals including highly skilled veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and veterinary assistants. The team is a great one, and without the skills of all involved these birds would face a very grim future.
The centre campaigns tirelessly throughout the festival, encouraging local people to come and see what goes on inside the hospital, and providing education on the dangers of kite string and the damage it can do.
This education and community support is not only vital in the success of the avian A&E which relies on members of the public to bring in injured birds, but also on the future reduction in kite flying and kite string use, and therefore the reduction in future injuries to birds and other animals.
I feel very fortune to have been a part of this large team, and hope to be able to return in the future to continue to assist with the phenomenal work that is being done here.
The money raised by international organisations is vital in providing resources such as needles, syringes, bandage material, feeding supplies, expertise, monitoring equipment and so many other vital resources which make the treatment of these animals so efficient.
If you would like to donate to wildlife vets internationals injured birds and raptor rehabilitation campaign please follow the following link: https://www.wildlifevetsinternational.org/projects/essential-first-aid-for-injured-birds