Six days after a black-necked stork was spotted with a ‘bottleneck’ around its beak in Gurgaon’s Basai wetland by birder Manoj Nair, it was finally rescued by a team of eight from Najafgarh on Wednesday morning. What was earlier believed to be a plastic bottleneck turned out to be a “ring made of some kind of waste material made of rubber”, said a forest department official.
For days, a team of rescuers comprising birders, Haryana forest guards, Nature Conservation Foundation and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) were on a frantic search for the stork, which was unable to eat or drink.
Around 9 am Wednesday after the stork was spotted —seemingly weak, dehydrated and slow – rescuers formed four teams and “grabbed the bird when it landed near two birders, Sonu and Rakesh”, said birder Pankaj Gupta, who lead the team of rescuers the first few days.
“We had been attempting to help the bird using various tactics for the last four-five days, but none had worked. We then had little choice but to take advantage of the fact that it had not eaten for a while, and wait for its energy level to deplete,” said Shyam Sunder Kaushik, District Forest Officer (Wildlife).
The stork was spotted at 4 am but flew away when the team attempted to rescue it with flashlights. The operation resumed at 6 am, with the team chasing the bird for two-three km.
“Eventually, it was exhausted and was caught at 9:15 am,” said Vinod Kumar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Administration).
The bird was rushed to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary where it was fed fish and given water. It is recuperating in an enclosure , and will possibly be released on Thursday. “It’s a male sub-adult, probably two years old. The bird has been ringed as well, in order to track its movements in the future. It’s a yellow ring with K16 written on it,” said Gupta. Removing the rubber ring from the bird’s beak was only half the battle won, as the team realised its mouth was full of mud. “Rubber gave enough movement to the stork’s beak enabling it to drink water, which is why it wasn’t as dehydrated as we thought… but it also prolonged its agony since the stork couldn’t get rid of the mud,” said Gupta.
Kumar said, “The bird had been unable to eat but had consumed water at some point, which was unclean. The waste and dirt from that had choked its beak, and was cleaned using bottled water.”
The six-day rescue operation was peppered with failures and concerns — like stray dogs. “They are rampant in Najafgarh area. The stork had not eaten anything for at least five days and was weak. We were worried that if it came across a dog, it would be attacked and lack the energy to defend itself,” said Kumar.
On the operation’s first day, the birders approached National Zoological Park for the tranquilising gun but were told that “the bird would fly away with the shot out of fear and then drop dead”.
Other methods used were drones, camouflaging and bamboo traps. “Camouflage didn’t work because the bird was vigilant, the bamboo trap failed, as did the drones because the sound distracted most of the birds,” said Gupta. According to an official, “drones also failed due to issues caused by high-tension wires in the area, which interfered with the signal”.