Saving common bird species
Why is WVI helping common species like pigeons and black kites?
Around the colourful Hindu festival celebrating spring (Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti), the movement of the sun from the southern to thenorthern hemisphere, there are many kite flying festivals and competitions. One of the outcomes are discarded kites and strings tangled in trees, across roads, between buildings and the infrastructure of human habitation. Thousands of birds of all species get tangled and suffer broken legs and partially severed wings as well as dehydration and infection as they struggle to break free.
To reduce numbers of birds getting injured, organisations like RAKSHA and Jivdaya Charitable Trust run education campaigns to reduce kite flying during the times of day when birds move to and from their roosts, organise volunteer teams to collect the discarded deadly manja and open temporary bird treatment clinics. Vets, technicians and non-vets all volunteer to help the birds. Few of these have had specialist avian medicine or surgery experience that is needed for the more severely injured birds.
The strings are indiscriminate and species already low in numbers, such as India’s vultures, are being injured. And species thought of as common, don't always stay that way. Vultures were found in their 100s if not 1000s and played a very important part of both rural and urban ecology, neatly tidying up cattle and human carcasses, in the case of the Zoroastrians. In the 1990s numbers fell dramatically due to the use of diclofenac which became widely available. Diclofenac is a very useful drug used to treat pain andinflammation in humans and livestock. It is highly toxic to old world vultures, particularly of the gyps genus. You can find out more about this dramatic conservation story here.
For some of these species of vultures, they are widely extinct and where they do exist they are in very low numbers. Therefore, every individual bird counts. So it is imperative that rehabilitators and their vets know how to deal with them. Practicing in such endangered species isn't a good idea so better to practice on a relatively common bird, such as the black kite, before looking at rarer species.
Passing on the knowledge
There are many fabulous volunteer organisations and people that help these birds, often without the expertise they need. RAKSHA Jaipur is one such organisation and they share the Wildlife Vets International’s vision of passing on the knowledge to those that will use it every day.
RAKSHA organised a series of workshops, conferences and on-the-job training opportunities between 11th – 16th Jan. It kicked off with a free Avian Rescue & Rehabilitation Workshop. A great opportunity for individuals rescuing, caring and rehabilitating birds to learn about first aid, handling, feeding and rehabilitation from avian experts from India and all over the world.
This was followed by an Avian Medicine and Surgery Conference aimed at veterinary practitioners and students. It was a two day conference covering avian medicine and surgery that is most likely to be needed when dealing with birds needing to be rehabilitated following entanglement in the deadly manja kite strings.
The following areas, amongst others, were covered:
· Patagial laceration repair, re-suturing andfollowup treatment by Dr Henna Ganjwala
· Avian Botulism and avian influenza by Dr UshmaPatel
· Avian casualty welfare – a discussion on euthanasiaand amputations by Dr Ushma Patel
· Triage and assessment of the avian casualtyincluding fluid therapy and responsible antibiotic usage by Dr Ashley Clayton
· Pain management and cold laser for wound healingin birds by Dr Rina Dev
· Orthopedic management – conservative and surgicalapproaches to fractures in avian species by Dr Stefan Harsch
· Soft tissue surgery in avian species – by DrStefan Harsch
· Anaesthesia in birds including potential problemsand how to avoid them – Matthew Rendle, RVN.
This was followed by three days of Hands on Workshopon Avian Surgical Practice. A small number of vets and vet students were working alongside vet and vet nurse teams, rotating through three different locations to gain essential insight into avian rehabilitation medicine.
It looked like a very exciting few days thanks to the hard work put into it. We can’t wait to hear what all the delegates make of it.
For more information behind this project, please see this previous article, Operation Avian. WVI’s input tothese learning experiences has been enabled by the Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Fund. Equipment for the delegates and to help RAKSHA deal with the casualties during this festival have come from J.A.K. Marketing, LaFaber International, ACE Veterinary Supplies and Securos Surgical (MWI Animal Health).
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