Hindu kite festival takes its toll on birds in India

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 January, 2003, 12:00am

A kite-flying festival in western India is posing a grave threat to birds, prompting demands by animal rights campaigners to regulate the popular sport.

Activists say the glass-laced thread used for flying kites during the annual Hindu festival of Uttarayan has injured thousands of pigeons, sparrows, owls and vultures in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Kite-flying is an integral part of the Uttarayan celebrations - which began on Wednesday - to mark the winter solstice.

'In Ahmedabad alone, we have treated over 300 injured birds rescued by our volunteers,' said Rahul Sehgal, co-ordinator of Animal Help Foundation in the Gujarat business capital.

Mr Sehgal said many birds had succumbed to their injuries and the casualty figures were rising daily. He said 90 per cent of the birds brought for treatment at the foundation's centre would never be able to fly again.

'It is impossible to know the exact toll but by my estimates tens of thousands of birds would be grounded for life by the time festivities come to an end,' Mr Sehgal said.

He said awareness was growing in urban areas of the hazards posed by the kite strings - which are coated in a crushed glass-glue mixture - but ignorance remained widespread in the countryside.

The Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has launched a public-awareness campaign and petitioned the government for a ban on the glass-coated strings.

'We are not against a traditional Indian sport like kite-flying, but the government should ensure that string which can prove fatal for birds should be immediately banned,' a society spokesman said.