A volunteer picks up a fledgling kite that lies almost motionless on a hot The Indian pavement as the relentless sun beats down on its feathers: one of countless birds struggling to withstand an unbearable heat wave.
The early start of summer has brought record temperatures and made life misery for both humans and animals, with experts warning that climate change is making such conditions more intense and more frequent.
An animal hospital in the western city of Ahmedabad has treated some 2,000 birds in the past month, many of them weak and severely dehydrated, with some suffering from broken wings after falling from trees.
“We get at least 50 to 60 dehydrated birds every day,” Gira Shah, co-founder of the Jivdaya Charitable Trust which runs the hospital, told AFP, adding that temperatures have risen to 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit). .
The Bird Hospital is one of the largest of its kind in India and was founded by members of the Jain faith, an ancient Indian religion that preaches non-violence and love for all creatures, large and small.
The infernal heat coincided with the end of the breeding season for some bird species, resulting in large numbers of chicks and baby birds being treated at the facility.
A steady stream of volunteer rescuers and members of the public carry the birds in cardboard boxes or baskets each day, where they are recorded, weighed, labeled and examined by a veterinarian.
The birds are treated, but about one in four do not survive due to the severity of their dehydration or the complications that come with it.
Those that recover are kept in an aviary until they are ready to be released into the wild.
Others who have been severely disabled as a result of their injuries are sent to zoos or educational institutions.
– ‘Rather terrible’ –
Veterinary surgeon Nidhi Sharma had already treated a parakeet and a chattering chick before the newborn kite rescued from the road was brought to her for examination.
“He’s severely dehydrated,” the 29-year-old said as she injected him with restorative fluids.
Rescuers believe the heat-weakened kite fell to the ground from its nest in a tree nearly 15 meters (50 feet) above.
Hospital curator Sherwin Everett has been working in Jivdaya – “compassionate life” in the local Gujarati language – since 2010.
He says this year’s heatwave was some of the worst for local birds he has ever seen.
Heatwaves have killed more than 6,500 people in India since 2010, but Shah and Everett are also calling on the public to consider the welfare of any wildlife they encounter.
“We expect until July to have more heat waves and the temperature will get worse,” Everett said.
“At this time we have received a lot of birds that have been dehydrated,” he added. “But the next few months seem to be pretty bad for us too.”