In India, Two Brothers Are Saving Black Kites from a Surprising Foe: Paper Kites

(Katie Stacey, February 1, 2017)

When brothers Mohammed Saud and Nadeem Shahzad found their first injured Black Kite, they had no idea what to do with the bloody bird. Kites are abundant in Delhi, India, where the siblings live, and swirls of the gregarious scavengers often fill the skies, especially where food is plentiful. Unfortunately for the acrobatic avians, competitive kite flying—a sport that involves outmaneuvering your opponents to cut their string with your own—is popular among the city’s nearly 10 million human inhabitants. When the birds hit the sharpened string necessary to do battle, it “slices through their bodies like a knife,” Saud says.

The bird the brothers came across 15 years ago had tangled with one of these paper kites and was too wounded to fly, so they took it to the Jain Bird Hospital. They were turned away. The people who ran the clinic adhered to a strict vegetarian diet for religious reasons; they couldn’t, they explained, care for the raptor because they could not feed it meat. Out of options, Saud and Shahzad regretfully put the bird back where they had picked it up.

Over the years, the brothers came across more wounded kites, most crippled by vicious cuts. Knowing of no place to take them, they left the raptors in place. Then seven years ago while crossing a parking lot the duo came across yet another bleeding Black Kite. After leaving so many of the birds to die, they could no longer stand to see the suffering creatures. They carried it home, knowing that they would be fully responsible for it. A veterinarian patched up the bird, and under Saud and Shahzad’s patient care, it made a full recovery. Encouraged, they began bringing home more kites, learning from a pigeon-trainer neighbor how to clean and suture wounds. Word got out, and over time the calls they received about hurt kites went from a trickle to a torrent.

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