As a teenager, Gavin Desouza, 25, spent most of his school vacations in Goa’s scenic Nerul village, exploring its wildlife by rescuing birds, snakes and watching crocodiles for hours on end with his uncle in the beautiful Mandovi River.
Love for the wild pulled Desouza to work for the welfare of animals back home in Mumbai where he began rescuing birds since the he was 11. With a keen interest in falconry, the ancient sport in which birds of prey are used to hunt, Desouza began to rescue injured birds and learnt to rehabilitate them.
Working alone with no financial support from his family or any non-profit organisations, the Marol resident rescues 15-20 birds of prey every month.
With the help of The Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) and a few expert veterinary doctors, Desouza has also learnt to revitalize them at his home.
"While growing up rescuing wild animals, I realised that many people would release raptors without proper care. Since these birds feed on other animals, it takes time for them to resume hunting once injured and hence need more care. After reading up extensively on falconry and talking to experts, I started spending maximum time on rescuing them," said Desouza.
Pursuing a master’s degree in engineering, Desouza has to divide time between studies and rescue work. The calls for rescuing raptors often come in from office buildings, housing societies that have tall trees in their premises and even five-star hotels.
"Once, there was a female kite that was attacking people near The Taj Hotel in Colaba. Somebody called me to the spot and I realised that they had reached the age to fly alone. We waited for a few days and the kites flew away soon."
Presently, D’souza is tending to a Eurasian Eagle Owl that was rescued by the BSPCA. To help the bird recover faster, Desouza is building a flight pen for the owl at an uncle’s farm in Karjat, where the bird can exercise its injured wings and build muscles.
According to veterinary doctor Percy Avari who works with BSPCA and teaches at Bombay Veterinary College, Desouza is doing a fine job of caring for birds of prey, which are difficult to handle.
"Gavin has always sought help from experts when he is not able to treat birds with serious injuries to wings or muscles. Most importantly, he dedicates a lot of time to these birds to help them eat while recovering and by providing them shelter that is quiet and dark, which is a necessity," said Dr Avari.