Earlier this year, on a cool February night, Shailesh Mehta, a cabbie by day and animal rescuer by night, received a call on his phone from the police about a big bird who had come crashing down on Reay Road in the Port Trust area of Mumbai.
With no night ambulances available, Shailesh took his Uber cab, and along with Donald D’Souza, a fellow animal rescuer who specialises in treating birds, left for the Port Trust area. When they found the ‘big bird,’ they realised it was a badly-injured and dehydrated vulture, who had come crashing down in the area while searching for water.
After treatment, Donald’s family took in the vulture, looked after it and celebrated its recovery with a christening ceremony at the St John and Evangelist Church in Ballard Pier eight months later, according to this report in the Mumbai Mirror. They called the bird Booboo, and the publication reports that the family will release the bird into its natural habitat near Nasik in the next few days.
“The male was on the verge of dying. But we nursed him back to health. We wanted to return him to the Nasik forest much earlier. However, his moulting season had begun. His old feathers had fallen off and were replaced with new ones. Then we waited for the rainy season to get over. We are finally releasing him in Nasik as we have spotted his kind of vultures there. So, he will be returned to his own habitat,” said Donald’s 18-year-old daughter, Vanessa, in a conversation with Mumbai Mirror.
Her father operates Sparsh, a non-profit involved in the rescue of birds and animals, alongside Rutu and Maharshi Dave. According to the publication, this big bird of prey is a Himalayan Griffon Vulture and weighs anywhere between 8-13 kg and a wingspan ranging from 2.56 to 3.1 metres.
Although this bird is native to the higher regions of the Himalayas, the Pamirs and Tibetan Plateau, there have been multiple sightings of this species of vulture in Kerala, Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra in recent years.
“Himalayan griffons do not breed in the first three years, and hence juvenile birds of the species do not remain in breeding grounds to avoid competition. Such long-distance straying from home territory also points towards a lack of navigational experience in immature birds. All individuals of the species previously reported as sighted from south India, including the one spotted in Goa, are the immature ones,” said Pronoy Baidya of eBird, an online platform that crowdsources information from birdwatchers, in a conversation with The Hindu.
Even though the bird isn’t on the endangered list yet, its numbers are on the decline, and recent efforts like the one in Mumbai will go some way in protecting it.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)