On Sunday evening Kochi resident Mukesh Jain and his family had just reached the Ernakulam boat jetty when he got a call. An eagle was trapped in a telephone tower. There was little choice. He called off the trip and the family took the next boat back to Mattancherry.
The owner of a tea powder retail shop, Mukesh has spent a lot of time and money in the past nine years rescuing birds that are trapped in branches, electric lines, and mobile towers. In Mukesh’s estimates, he’s rescued about 1,500 birds in all these years.
Mukesh cutting the entangled strings
Mukesh doesn’t discriminate between birds. “People asked me why I rescued crows, because they’re found in large numbers. But I don’t see any difference between birds. Today, I cancelled my trip to rescue an eagle,” he says.
During festivals, especially the kite-flying season, the numbers shoot up as many birds are injured by plastic strings used to fly kites. The numbers are surprisingly high as several north and north-east Indian communities reside in the Fort Kochi area and celebrate even Onam by flying kites. But feathered creatures aren’t the only ones who’ve been injured by kite-strings. On Saturday a bike rider in Mattancherry was severely injured on the neck by plastic string.
With years of practise, Mukesh has developed a good system of coordinating with tree-climbers, and using tools – including one that he invested – to rescue the feathered creatures.
He hasn’t kept track of how much he has paid tree climbers, coconut climbers and auto drivers who help him in rescue operations.
“Climbers’ charges are high, but once we’ve set out to do something, we shouldn’t think about expenses. I don’t know how much I might have spent,” he said.
Coconut climber rescuing an eagle
When tree-climbers cannot rescue birds, he uses a tool he himself devised – a long stick with few nails attached to it, to cut the string and free the bird, without harming it.
Otherwise, standard operating procedure is that he always carries a tool box in his scooter for rescues. It contains two fishing rods with adjustable lengths, the tool he invented, glucose water and turmeric powder.
“After the bird is rescued, we give it glucose water. If there are any wounds, we apply turmeric. Rescue means not only freeing them, from entrapment but also looking after them so they can fly,” Mukesh says.
Since 2008, Mukesh has been campaigning to get people to use cotton strings instead of plastic. In 2013, he approached the Kerala High Court seeking a ban on the use of plastic twine for kites. The High Court directed the Revenue Divisional Officer to take necessary action, based on which the RDO prohibited the use of plastic in 2014.
“Despite the ban, people still use plastic strings. Parents, teachers and other elders should restrain children from using this. Only awareness and self-decision can solve the issue,” Mukesh says.
Applying turmeric in the wounds