As January 14 comes closer, the number of people taking to kite flying increases. But while expertly manoeuvring your flying prize and cutting through the competition has a childish triumphant excitement to it, there is an unseen danger that looms along with it.
With the Chinese manja (kiteline) becoming popular over the past three-four years, the number of casualties among birds has also increased in direct proportion. Kitelines are mostly hard to spot from a distance and hence many from the avian community end up flying into these lines, or get entangled in them. Once a kite goes astray, the line remains adrift, landing on trees and electric poles. Many times, birds also end up getting entangled in them even while nesting on the tree, which leads to their feathers being cut, feet being harmed, and in severe cases, strangulation.
Says Mahesh Agarwal, general secretary of Sahayog, a local body that works towards animal protection, “First of all, the sudden appearance of so many kites in the sky scare the birds as they are not used to them. Panic leads them to fly helter-skelter, leading them to get entangled in these wires. The manja can be quite harmful to a bird’s body, so even if it manages to free itself from the tangled mess, birds becomes vulnerable to predators like dogs and cats on the ground.”
What has made the numbers go up since the introduction of the Chinese manja is the quality of the kiteline. “The Chinese manja is stronger as it is made of plastic and coated in glass, unlike the traditional string that is made from cotton. Even if a bird did get entangled in the cotton string, the string would snap easily. But the new Chinese ones don’t even burn out when lit on fire,” explains Dattatraya Joshi, executive officer of People For Animals (PFA), another NGO working in the city.
Quite alarmed at the danger this poses, Joshi has been trying to spread the word of banning the Chinese manja altogether. “The Chinese manja is imported from another country in the first place. Why should we spend money and import something that harms our eco-system? We have been trying to convince the government to ban it, and at the same time inform people of the ill-effects of manja.”
As of now, PFA has already rescued seven birds – one eagle, three pigeons and three kites. “It’s a really sad fate for these birds as the danger isn’t just in the sky, but also on the trees. There is no safe place for them during this time,” laments Joshi.
Agreeing Agarwal says, “The problem also isn’t just something that lasts for these few days. An injured bird takes an average of three to four months to heal. If it’s rescued, it’s lucky. But those that fall somewhere unsafe get mauled by predators on the ground, or simply die from being unable to feed itself. Plus the kitelines remain astray until a really strong wind blows it away or the rain washes it down.”
While Agarwal understands why people go for the Chinese manja (“it is cheaper and stronger to play with”), he still tries to convince them to switch back to the cotton kiteline at least, if not giving up the game. And this year has shown some promise.
“I am quite happy to report that we had zero rescue missions so far. Five years ago, the situation was quite bad. This year however, there seems to have been a dip in the kite festivities themselves. The number of open spaces have reduced, the Telangana-Andhra conflict has seen many Andhra people go back to their villages for festivals, etc.” Only specific areas like People’s Plaza and old city sees as much traffic nowadays, according to him.
“I happened to speak to a few kite vendors as well, and they concur that sales have gone down. I’ve also noticed that birds have become adaptable to things like cellphone towers which are actually quite harmful to them. In fact, the overall population has increased,” he shares.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from the fact that flying kites using the Chinese manja seems to have become quite deadly for our feathered friends.
If you find an injured bird, you can call various helplines who will dispatch people to rescue the birds.
Sahayog –– 93940 05600; 92461 75600
People For Animals –– 98499 93374; 82977 95072; 040 2753 7540/41/42
Blue Cross –– 040 3298 9858;
040 2354 5523
You can also rescue birds by
following these simple steps
l Catch the bird using a piece of cloth and NOT your hands
l Place it in a shoe box
l Feed it glucose water and seeds
Birds usually take three-to-four months to heal, depending on the severity of the injury.