Devotion to feathers: Indian brothers devote their lives to caring for birds of prey

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NEW DELHI: For the past two decades, the walls of a small clinic in New Delhi’s Wazirabad neighborhood have silently watched over the healing of thousands of injured raptors rescued by brothers Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad.

Birds of prey, falling from the leaden skies of the capital where most are mortally wounded by paper kites, would often be left to their own fate. But Saud and Shehzad have made it their mission to care for the injured birds.

“Our job is to rehabilitate wildlife,” Shehzad, 43, told Arab News.

“For us, there was no choice but to learn on our own… There is no formal research and education on wildlife rehabilitation in India.”

In the clinic in the basement of the brothers’ office, Saud held a large kite in his hands that had torn his muscles. With the help of a veterinarian, he then placed a rod to repair the wound.

“This bird was sent to us by a bird hospital. His condition was very bad and we hope that once he recovers the kite will be able to fly,” Saud, 40, told Arab News during a recent visit.

“We get wild birds, mainly kites, from all over Delhi. And there are two helpers who will fetch the birds if we get a call.

The clinic was home to more than 100 black kites in various stages of treatment, along with a few Egyptian vultures, several owls and other wild bird species – all of whom are recovering.

The brothers’ passion for wild birds began when they were teenagers in the mid-1990s, when the pair came across a black kite with injured wings.

They took him to Delhi’s top bird hospital in hopes of finding shelter and treatment for the creature, but were turned down because it was an “unspecified bird.” vegetarian”.

Bewildered, the brothers were left with “a sense of helplessness” that lingered. Over the years, they encountered injured black kites on the streets and had no choice but to ignore them due to the lack of treatment facilities in the Indian capital.

Until one fateful day in April 2003, when they came across another injured black kite, they decided they couldn’t give up. With the help of a local veterinarian, they treated the mutilated bird. He couldn’t fly, but the kite stayed with them for 12 years until he died.

“It was the turning point of life, and from 2003 we decided to bring these birds to our terrace and we made arrangements (to treat) these injured birds,” Shehzad said.

Since then, the brothers have rescued over 23,000 birds.

New Delhi has a huge raptor population, with Shehzad estimating at least 25,000 kites in the capital due to slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. They often encounter premature deaths due to poison and destroyed nests during construction and landscaping. Superstitious beliefs that portray raptors as harbingers of bad luck have also led people to destroy their nests and poison the creatures.

Despite their lack of formal training and the limited opportunities for wildlife specialists in India, Saud and Shehzad make up for this with research and experimentation, while using local veterinarians.

“We did our own research, read books, searched the internet and watched YouTube. Sometimes we also consulted human doctors to understand complex issues and apply them to birds,” Saud said.

On separate occasions, Saud and Shehzad have received scholarships to travel to the United States for conferences hosted by the Minnesota-based National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, which works to improve and promote wildlife rehabilitation.

“When we went there, we realized that some of our works were unique, which people in the United States weren’t aware of,” Shehzad said.

In 2010, they established Wildlife Rescue, a nonprofit organization and charitable trust through which they receive foreign contributions that have helped them fund rescue efforts — which cost around $1,600 a month. The brothers also run a family business making liquid soap dispensers and other bathroom accessories.

Wildlife Rescue, which treats over 2,000 raptors a year, is one of India’s few organizations dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation. Saud and Shehzad hope their country will soon have a real dedicated center where “wildlife can be properly cared for,” Shehzad said.

The brothers have mainly rescued black kites, which are spreading across New Delhi. The species may not be endangered or particularly attractive, but enough birds have had their wings clipped flying over the city over the years that Shehzad thinks that’s what they’re supposed to be. To do.

“We are trying to find a solution to the problem. We feel that God is asking us to do this.

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