6 Tips To Save Birds From Kite Strings Injuries This Makar Sankranti
Kite flying on the 14th of January during Uttarayan has been a lasting tradition and festival in India. Kites made with paper and bamboo are made to soar high into the sky, attached to a string, which more often than not, is glass-coated or metal-coated. Ever wondered why the kite-string is coated with glass or metal? Well, the point of that is to have the string to be sharp enough to cut down other people's kites and "win". Kite flying is a major festival celebrated popularly, especially in the cities of Ahmedabad and Jaipur in India.
With each passing year, as the people of India celebrate the festival of Uttarayan and fly kites high in the sky, thousands of birds get caught in these kite strings and injure themselves gravely. A festival that brings humans together turns the sky into a trap for these little birdies. Every year, thousands of birds are injured by these kite strings. And in an attempt to escape the tangles, they either lose a body part or even their life.
What is causing bird deaths in India?
Close to 20,000 birds die each year due to the various kinds of bird flu that exist. While some of these birds may die where they are native to, a lot of birds lose their life when they are migrating to different places. Climate change and global warming have also impacted these aerial species’ survival rate, to a larger extent than we can comprehend. While these climate changes don't affect humans immediately, that isn't the case for animals and birds.
Bird deaths due to Makar Sankranti
While these may be natural deaths, about 200 to 1500 birds die in India every year due to the kite strings used in Makar Sankranti while thousands of others get tangled and lose a body part. Because of this, it becomes very important to actively save birds in Makar Sankranti, no matter which part of the country we celebrate in.
Is kite flying all that bad for birds?
A few years ago, people used Chinese Manjhas - a synthetic kite string coated in glass or metal, to wind their competitive fire of winning in local kite flying contests. Fortunately, this was banned in India in 2017 as it resulted in a lot of grave injuries to birds. Nevertheless, most people are still seen using the Chinese Manjha to fly kites during Uttarayan.
These kite strings, coated with glass or metal, function great when you're trying to compete with your neighbour or when you want to win against your uncle in a friendly kite flying match. But these same kite strings can cause fatal injuries to birds, animals, and even humans. There have been multiple occasions where humans have become victims to this Chinese Manjha, resulting in its ban.
The National Green Tribunal banned the Chinese Manjha when there were cases of deaths in humans due to the manjha, and this, despite the ban. However, NGT only banned the manjhas which resulted in the deaths, but allowed people to use manjhas which were considered to be biodegradable, this includes manjhas made from isabgol husk, wood powder, or gumchi (Indian licorice).
Tips To Save Birds during Uttarayan:
1. Spreading awareness about how kite flying affects birds:
The first step to fixing any problem is acknowledging that the problem exists. Point to the case, it's important to understand and explain to the people around you how a festival believed to be all fun and games can actually affect not just cute little birdies but also other animals and most importantly, our ecosystem so much. Awareness is the first and most important step to save birds in Makar Sankranti.
2. Learn the basics of how to attend to avian emergencies:
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither were habits inculcated overnight. While expecting people to stop flying kites overnight might be unrealistic, it is only smart to be aware of what one can do when they see a bird tangled in manjha or hurting. There are a lot of workshops on how to deal with avian emergencies during Makar Sankranti and attending one of these workshops can help us a great deal. But if you don't have the time for that, no worries - the least you can do is keep the numbers of vets, NGOs, bird rescuers handy. Time help can save an injured bird’s life!
3. Avoid flying kites when birds are more active:
In a 2010 notice by the State Forest Department in Ahmedabad, the citizens were asked to not fly kites between 6 am to 8 am and 5 pm to 7 pm as birds were found to be more active at those hours. While this approach didn't achieve the expected outcome to protect birds, it is surely a good idea, if implemented well. The math is fairly simple, if you fly kites when birds are at their least active, it reduces the number of birds that can get injured while you are having fun.
4. Avoid using Chinese Manjhas:
As we mentioned above, Chinese Manjhas are brutal for animals and often, even for humans. Using a Chinese Manjha may help you win a competition or two but it might lead to anguish in birdies and humans alike. Festivals in India have a lot of sentimental value, and while we douse ourselves in celebrations, we must, as a society, try to lessen the pain for our winged friends. Competition with your neighbour is not and can never have more weightage than a little bird’s life. Also, this Manjha has proven fatal to humans as well, remember the last time you got a painful cut while flying kites? Imagine what happens to the poor birds!
5. Say no to mass kite-flying:
The only problem with kite flying isn't the manjha but also the huge number of people flying kites at one time. When a lot of people gather at the same place to fly kites, a bird entering that vicinity is essentially flying into a trap. The probability of birdies getting tangled into a kite string increases exponentially when there are so many people flying kites in the same area. This is why flying kites in smaller batches is a better idea than flying kites in huge groups.
6. Creating a more humane celebration:
If we take a minute to really think about how making a small change to our Uttarayan celebrations can save the lives of countless animals, it will help us make a tiny change to the way we celebrate this festival. And the first step to bring that change is by being more empathetic towards our little flying friends. However tiny, they too are a vital part of our ecosystem and it is only humane for us to consciously try to avoid causing them pain.
Makar Sankranti is a celebration of winter ending and summer beginning. It is a sign for the farmers that with the end of winter, the sun is back up and the harvest season is fast approaching. And as beautiful as this sentiment is, we need to think of the Earth as our home and understand that while our celebration is important, celebrating at the expense of the lives of little birdies may not be worth it all.
(Disclaimer: The information contained on this blog is just for informational purposes only. Though, it’s not guaranteed to be precise and perfect and we believe that every pet is unique in its own way and requires different attention)