An eye out for birds
Singer-songwriter Manta Sidhu has always been surrounded by animals – she had 13 cats at one point! If you’ve heard her soul-stirring lyrics, you may have caught glimpses of her empathic nature. So, joining an animal rescue shelter came naturally to her when she was studying in Delhi University’s Hindu College in 2012, along with three of her batch mates, with whom she later co-founded her NGO, Angel Eyes, in 2008.
The suite life of birds
It didn’t take long for her to deduce the lack of treatment options for birds. Something she is trying to correct as she works towards forming an all-India network of bird rescuers and caregivers, via which she also started an Angel Eyes Bird Rescue and Surgery Camp with Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre in Raja Garden in Delhi, in August this year.
“There was a time when my mom and I were sleeping in the drawing room because the three bedrooms were filled with parakeets, pigeons and crows respectively,” she recalls.
Hotline for birds
Fostering birds may not take much space but there are other things which are more crucial – like knowing about their unique ailments and diets that vary with bird types. “Only a handful of vets know about treating birds,” Manta explains, who has veterinary surgeon Dr Jugol Singh heading the team and the help of volunteers Hina Singh and Garima Dabla.
They’ve started a hotline to guide people who’ve come across injured birds. “There’s a step-by-step protocol. We tell them what symptoms to look for, how to rehabilitate injured birds and then set them free, and how to reunite babies who have fallen from nests with their parents,” she adds.
No social media gyan, please!
This is information that’s crucial at a time when people seek advice on social media, leading to a huge burst of uninformed opinions. “People say ‘doodh pilao (feed milk)’. But birds don’t feed milk to their babies – they don’t have the digestive enzyme to consume dairy. It’s harmful for the bird!” Manta says.
They are also holding online training sessions with people who’ve shown interest in fostering birds. The training is basic, comprising bits that Manta picked up while working with surgeons and vets at shelters. “It sounds great to have a cute bird at home, but you have to realise that these birds will have infections and need constant attention. For example, baby birds need to be fed every two hours from morning to night, something people with hectic schedules can’t do. Also, some birds only eat meat, a problem for Jains or vegetarians,” Manta lists.
Say no to manjha
The need for volunteers is high during the kite flying season starting August when the string or the manjha of the kites injures birds. There are two types of strings – the glass-coated one and its nylon counterpart. “The former doesn’t disintegrate, so birds get entangled in it all year round. It’s best to use the latter called saddi, which disintegrates completely,” Manta advises.
Besides, Covid-19 has resulted in more kids and adults taking to kite-flying. “We don’t know if the chemical spraying during lockdown has impacted the food and water being consumed by the birds,” she wonders.
People must realise how wrong it is to cage birds especially after they have experienced lockdown themselves. “I don’t get how bird pet shops are still thriving,” Manta says. Social media influencers, are you listening?
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From HT Brunch, December 6, 2020
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