A day when every second household contributes bird shelters and feeders is how 34-year-old Arundhati Yatish Malhar Mhatre envisages the mission of her venture, Arenya. A computer engineer, Arundhati fell in love with birds sometime ago when she received a bird shelter as a gift from a friend. She kept it outside her window and in no time it was occupied by a sparrow couple. That was when she got hooked to the winged creatures.
She started Arenya (jungle) in 2012, where she and a few like-minded friends, came up with bird shelters and feeders of different designs made up of natural materials like bamboo, coconut, clay, wood and got them ready for sale at affordable prices. Care, compassion and contribution, summing up the purpose behind Arenya (www.arenya.in), the group aims to inspire and guide you in caring for birds apart from working with feathered friends.
“We even conduct workshops where we educate adults or children on how to make shelters or feeders out of recycled oil cans, soft drink cans, pet bottles and milk tetrapacks,’’ says Arundhati who works in her office five days a week while devoting the rest two days to Arenya.
For someone who wanted to take up Veterinary Science, there was always a fascination for animals and birds, but she ended up completing a degree in computers from Mumbai University. “My heart was always craving to be amidst nature. And then one day my friend got a bird shelter for me and I placed it in my balcony on the other side of the glass sliding. In five minutes, a sparrow couple checked into the wooden box. And that marked the beginning of my affair with birds and everything related to these lovely creatures. Different species of birds, their nesting, their young babies trying to fly, the way they feed and other aspects. I also started observing other birds and butterflies and watching wild flowers.’’
On her association with birds, their habitation and artificial nesting, the spirited naturalist says initially she was volunteering a lot with organisations who promoted artificial nests. The exhibitions where she volunteered exposed her to customer expectations.
“Since I had a few shelters and feeders at my place, it was actually hands-on. So in 2012, we started Arenya. Currently I and my friends, Shrutika, Vishwanath, Abhishek and Rohan, promote feeders and shelters through exhibitions, social media and our website.’’
The bird lover feels Arenya is not just about promoting bird feeders and shelters. It is about the realisation that apart from humans birds and animals are also an integral part of our system. “We introduce people to the concept of living with nature. Once you hang a feeder or shelter, you start taking care of it and observing birds closely. So in some way, the process of conserving nature starts,’’ explains Arundhati.
She also takes up the cause of not using pesticides, as insects (the protein source for birds) reduce. ‘’Don’t do pest control and stop using plastics. Become more organic and the journey starts,’’ she exhorts.
Explaining more about Arenya, Arundhati says the venture does not want to cage birds. It is about setting them free and supporting them by providing safe nesting and feeding options. “Birds have also started preferring artificial shelters and feeders as they provide the comfort of a secure and safe nesting site apart from a food source. The shelters are designed keeping various factors in mind like providing a hollow-like space and allowing entry to only a specific type of bird depending on the specific diameter of the holes carved. I have feeders hung at my place and about five to seven parakeets keep visiting them every morning and evening. In fact a few visit for lunch also. The feeders hold broken rice, bajra and sunflower seeds. The rice is washed and sun dried before the feeders are filled with it.’’
Her efforts have earned her a huge support base in the form of feedback on her Arenya website and social networking sites. Arenya does not have big plans but spreading awareness and making people more sensitive is what the initiative is all about. “Introducing more and more people to these concepts will help them take care of the environment,’’ says Arundhati who has got all support from her husband and brother.
While Arundhati’s friend Shrutika handles the writeups and content, Vishwanath manages product design, logo and brochures. Abhishek handles website maintenance and Rohan helps in exhibiting. The bird shelters and feeders can be ordered by calling any of the volunteers or mailing them, and team Arenya couriers the items. They are available at a few organic shops as well.