In Karnataka's Bidar, a young conservationist designs ways to protect birds against the scorching heat

23rd Jun 2017
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Vinayak Vangapalli has come up with an innovative way to feed birds and has inspired many others around him to do the same.

The summer's unforgiving sun and the scorching heat it brings along provide little respite to anyone. While we usually manage with an ice cream or a glass of cold water, birds and animals are the worst affected. With the heat getting worse each year these voiceless creatures are found dead in huge numbers.

While a formal nationwide census for birds still eludes us, a report published by Down to Earth claimed that bird population in India has been falling at an alarming rate. The latest Red List of birds released by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the year 2015, also showed that a total of 180 bird species in India are now threatened by various environmental factors. Climate change and ecological loss are the biggest challenges our feathered friends face.

How the need to conserve birds began

The district of Bidar in Karnataka has been adversely affected by deathly heat strokes over the past few years, with temperatures soaring to 44 degrees Celsius on an average, resulting in wells, borewells and other water bodies drying up over time. Prey to this heat are the helpless birds of the region and the migratory birds that visit the shallow lakes and dams in large numbers.

This drove Vinayak Vangapalli, a 24-year-old postgraduate and member of the Bidar Photographic Society, to take a step forward and provide for these birds at his village. “In 2015, Bidar witnessed a dreadful summer that led to drought. This caused death of many birds and the sight to me was unbearable,” he recalls.

One-of-a-kind innovation

Vinayak grew up in a neighbourhood full of birds, used to waking up every morning to their chirping. His family left bowls of water and grains around their house to feed them. This encouraged him to get actively involved in steps taken to help conserve birds. ” My motivation comes from Dr Prakash Baba Amte, a man who calls the birds and wild animals his friends,” Vinayak quips.

He then began advocating feeding the birds to people in his village. He says, “Initially, people came up with excuses of not having enough space. Problems such as cats eating up the birds and bowls breaking surfaced.” When he discovered that people hung empty pots and nests outside their homes, he came up with the idea of designing an apparatus of his own. “The vertical metal tripod stand is most convenient as it takes up only 1sq f. of space and can hold two bowls at the same time, one for the millet and the other for water.” This, he says, keeps cats at bay too.

The tripod seemed to serve its purpose, with hundreds of birds flying over to eat and drink from it. Over the two years, with this initiative growing, every summer there are more than a thousand birds that come to feed from these stands. “To be able to watch these birds being saved and coming down in such numbers is a beautiful moment, as they have bleak chances of survival in the heat unless we conserve their existence,” Vinayak says.

There is a tinge of pride and sense of accomplishment when he speaks about how all his relatives and friends have taken the initiative forward by doing their bit. “People call us with questions on how to find these bird feeders and most of them tell us how rewarding the experience feels.”

His endeavours have inspired several others, one being his friend Sainath Sharma.

Sainath, 22, an engineering student, has come up with a unique way of enticing the birds. He records bird sounds and plays them through his phone hidden amongst the plants while he puts up bowls of seeds and water. This brings in a large number of birds.

Another initiative on his end is to distribute the saplings of a Japanese cherry plant, which is also known as the ‘bird magnet.’ The sweet and sour cherries that act as food attract 40-50 varieties of birds. This way birds do not die in search of food.

Spreading the initiative through word of mouth

Although a small-scale action in the present, Vinayak aims to expand by placing water in public gardens and encouraging friends and acquaintances to implement the initiative in their homes and surroundings. “Over 20 people known to me have begun providing for birds and I have witnessed them doing so. When word spreads, our work is sure to go viral.”

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