New Delhi: Bird lovers say Gujarat`s killer kites are out again. As Uttarayan festivities grip Ahmedabad city, environmentalists and wildlife officials all over the country are concerned over the safety of the winged beauties.
Millions of kites will take to the sky before the festival to welcome the sun god culminates Jan 14. Kite flying starts about a week in advance to celebrate the occasion. But hundreds of birds get injured or killed when razor sharp kite strings cut their wings or throats.
Migratory birds like pelicans and flamingos, which fly to the wetlands near Ahmedabad, also become victims.
NGOs say over 1,500 birds get injured every year but only a small number of them become fit to return to the wild. Maimed birds remain at care centres for the rest of their life.
The forest department and NGOs have set up over a dozen centres to help the injured birds this year. The department will run five rescue centres during Jan 10-17.
"Last year, the NGOs operated from a common rescue centre in partnership with the forest department. This year, however, the government has allowed us to set up centres independently," Kartik Shastri of Jeev Daya Trust told IANS on phone.
He said about 25 different species of birds were affected last year. These included the babler, red vented bulbul, cormorant, dove, steppe eagle, booted eagle, comb duck, egret, white rump vulture, lesser flamingo, Egyptian vulture and Asian koel.
"There is little we can do if the manja (glass coated kite string) cuts the wing or throat of a bird. If it survives, we try to set it free after rehabilitation, or else, it remains in captivity till the end," said Tanmay Vyas of the NGO Param.
To prevent mortality of birds this year, the department has urged people not to fly kites early morning and late evening when birds are more active.
Divisional forest officer V.J. Parsana said at least 1,500 birds were injured last year, and half of them were operated upon. Twenty-five doctors, including some from outside the state, were on the job.
"We hope bird fatalities will decrease over time, as people are being sensitised. The awareness initiatives of the government and NGOs are helping to overcome the problem," Parsana said.
The forest department also provides vehicles to NGOs to respond quickly to the emergency, he said.
Over the years, the festival has become a global event. This year, participants from about 34 countries will take part in an annual kite flying event near the Sabarmati river.
Parsana said the event will not harm the birds as the participants do not use manja.
"People who like to cut other`s kites and derive enjoyment out of it are the ones to look out for. Birds are threatened only when manjas are used," he added.
The famous Nal Sarovar and Thole wetlands near Ahmedabad attract more than a hundred different species of birds. Migratory birds from as far as Siberia, Afghanistan and Pakistan come here in December-January.