Birders race to save stork with plastic cap stuck around beak at Basai wetlands | delhi news | Hindustan Times
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Birders race to save stork with plastic cap stuck around beak at Basai wetlands

The black-necked stork is a near-threatened bird as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

delhi Updated: Jun 09, 2018 11:34 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
The black-necked stork was last spotted at the Basai wetlands on Friday morning but flew away towards Najafgarh before it could be captured and the bottle neck removed.
The black-necked stork was last spotted at the Basai wetlands on Friday morning but flew away towards Najafgarh before it could be captured and the bottle neck removed. (Manoj Nair)

A black-necked stork with a part of a plastic bottle’s cap stuck around its beak is giving birders of the National Capital Region sleepless nights. Teams are now frantically searching for the bird to rescue it and get the plastic cap removed, as it could die of thirst and hunger.

The bird was last spotted at the Basai wetlands on Friday morning but flew away towards Najafgarh before it could be captured and the bottle neck removed.

“If we can’t find it soon, it would die of thirst and hunger. Teams of birders from Delhi and NCR are frantically searching for the bird. Forest officials of Gurugram are helping us. We have sought help from the Wildlife Trust of India, whose officials would come with nets on Saturday. It is a race against time,” Pankaj Gupta, a birder from the Delhi Bird Foundation, said.

The incident comes just three days after India hosted World Environment Day with the theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. Tonnes of plastic bottles are dumped next to the wetland, known to be a haven for birds, including migratory ones, in winter. Storks, flamingoes, egrets, herons and Ibises frequent the area throughout the year.

Tonnes of plastic bottles are dumped next to the wetland, known to be a haven for birds, including migratory ones. (Pankaj Gupta)

The bird was first photographed by Manoj Nair, a birder, on Thursday evening. At night, when Nair was scanning the pictures, he spotted a plastic cap stuck in the bird’s beak. Nair informed Gupta and other birders.

The black-necked stork is a near-threatened bird as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

“We spread the message and local birders swung into action. Teams of birders from across NCR rushed to Basai early on Friday to rescue the bird. It was spotted in the same area. But every time we tried to get near, it flew away. We followed it but ultimately it flew out of sight towards Najafgarh. Teams searched Najafgarh but the bird couldn’t be located till reports last came in,” said Gupta.

Initially birders thought of tranquillising the stork.

They contacted Renu Singh, director of the Delhi Zoo, who assured help.

The idea, however, had to be dropped after the veterinary doctor of Delhi Zoo advised against it.

“The moment the tranquilliser dart hits the bird it would try to fly away. If the tranquilliser takes it effect while it is still flying, the bird would fall from the sky and die. The only option is to catch it with a net,” said Abhijit Bhawal, vet of Delhi zoo.

The birders would have to wait for the bird to get weak so that they can approach it and capture it with a net. But if it gets too weak or can’t be found at the earliest, it would die of dehydration.

“So we would have just a few hours of time to find it and rescue it. Otherwise it would surely die. We would be launching a more extensive search operation on Saturday both at Najafgarh and Basai to locate the bird. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said Gupta.

Every year, the Basai wetland houses more than 30,000 birds from different parts of the world, mainly the northern hemisphere, in the winter as they move to warmer locations in search of food and shelter.