Specialist vet’s mission to save injured birds

February 21, 2023

A specialist vet at Southfields, one of the UK’s leading animal hospitals, has just returned from a mercy mission treating thousands of seriously injured birds in India.

Daniel Calvo Carrasco, Exotic pets specialist at Linnaeus-owned Southfields Veterinary Specialists in Essex, flew out to the city of Ahmedabad last month (January) and spent two weeks working with the Jivdaya Charitable Trust.

The charity helps deal with the annual aftermath of an international kite flying festival in the city which can result in more than 3,000 birds being badly injured.

The festival marks the end of winter and the return of more clement weather for farmers of the Gujarat region.

Millions participate in the festival and kites are made with materials such as plastic, leaves, wood, metal and nylon. The lines can be covered with mixtures of glue and ground glass which, when dried, rolled up and attached to the rear, become sharp enough to cut skin.

Daniel, a European Specialist in Avian Medicine, explained: “Unfortunately, often birds cannot see the lines of the kites lines and fly into them, suffering terrible injuries as a result.

“That’s why I wanted to help but I must admit there were so many birds affected that the clinic looked like a war zone during the festival.

“It was immediately clear why the hospital needs the support of volunteer vets from across India and around the world to help them cope.”

Daniel has previously volunteered with projects in Peru, USA, Europe and New Zealand, and said working in India was a tough challenge but a terrific experience.

He added: “My main role was to carry out as many surgeries as possible, while also advising, training and supervising local vets and vet students on the best ways to treat some of the most serious injuries and to care for the birds afterwards.

“It was 15 days of non-stop working helping to treat a wide variety of birds including black kites, painted storks, cranes, eagles and critically endangered species such as the white rump vulture.

“It was a real challenge but it was also very rewarding and a terrific experience. The people were so welcoming, so keen to learn and so dedicated to making a difference that I’d like to go back again.”

Jivdaya Charitable Trust organiser Sumeet Gurbani said the help of volunteers such as Daniel was invaluable to their “Save the Birds” campaign.

He said: “We have been conducting this campaign for the past seven years and in the last three years we have received more than 3,000 birds annually.

“In fact, we start receiving the injured birds from December onward as the kite-flyers begin practicing flying kites from mid of November.

“The avian casualties also continue for many days after the festival as birds keep getting entangled and injured in loose lines that have become entangled on trees, overhead cables, poles and fences.

“During the peak campaign days, we run 28 operation tables, all engaged in avian emergency management procedures with separate set ups for the various bird types we receive – from common pigeons to rare flamingos and endangered vultures.

“Being able to apply advanced surgical procedures has helped save many birds from wing amputations and in our last campaign we achieved an 86.5 per cent survival ratio in the 3,339 injured birds that came into our centre.”

Southfields, which moved into a new state-of-the-art £16 million animal hospital in Basildon last summer, offers specialist services such as anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, exotics, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, radiation and soft tissue surgery.

To find out more about the veterinary care for Exotic pets available at Southfields, click here