By Bilal Kuchay
A week after its plight took social media by storm in India, a rare bird whose beak was trapped shut by a rubber stopper was finally rescued by wildlife officials on Wednesday.
Manoj Nair, a bird watcher and a photographer, on last Thursday snapped pictures of a male black-necked stork with a “plastic ring” shutting its beak in a wetland in Basai in Gurgaon, a suburb of India’s capital New Delhi.
The pictures of the bird went viral on social media capturing public attention.
Birders and state wildlife officials then mounted a frantic search operation to rescue the bird. The major concern was the bird, if not rescued, would dehydrate and starve to death.
Mr Nair explained: “I was on a usual visit to the wetland and I was clicking the pictures. I clicked the pictures of this bird but initially, I didn’t realise the bird had his beak trapped shut by a plastic ring.
“I spotted the plastic while I was checking the quality of the pictures on my camera.
“As a bird lover, it came as shock to me.
“I shared the pictures on social media with other birders which went viral. A rescue operation was soon started by officials and bird watchers.”
For a week, four team of birders looked for the stork at and nearby the wetland, at times confusing it with other birds before their excitement turned into disappointment.
At last, their unfazed and relentless efforts paid off when they found the stork painfully trying to launch a fight but eventually giving up near Najafgarh Lake.
Mr Pankaj Gupta, a bird watcher and member of the Delhi Bird Foundation who was involved in the rescue mission, said: “The bird was very weak when we found it. It didn’t have the energy to fly.”
The piece of the plastic which was initially thought to be a plastic ring turned out to be a rubber stopper was removed from the bird’s beak.
The bird was given water and fed a fish by hand and was later taken to Sultanpur National Park and Bird Sanctuary.
Mr Pankaj added: “We are thankful to the government that they did everything possible to rescue the bird.
“We are also happy that the birder fraternity PAN India rallied to support this mission to save the black-necked stork.”
Panjaj said that he and his colleagues hope the plight of the stork will help in protecting the wetland in Basai from being turned into a construction waste recycling site.
“We request the state government to protect Basai area from being converted into construction waste recycling site. Hundreds of birds visit the site and it need to be protected,” he added.
The bird is currently under observation at the Sultanpur National Park and Bird Sanctuary and will be released once the officials deem it fit.
Black-necked stork are classified as “near-threatened” on the Red List and are native to parts of India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. They thrive in wetlands where they hunt fish and snails.