Tuesday 5 February 2013

A story about Swifts in Uzbekistan

We know so little about what is being done - if anything - for wildlife in more distant parts of the world. This report from Uzbekistan about attempts to help grounded or injured Swifts is inspirational. We are grateful to Elena and Pavel for sending it to us.

Contributed by Elena Abdullayeva and Pavel Karabayev (edited by Jake)

Elena and Pavel
We are two young people living and working in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Our first encounter with Swifts was in 2011. We were returning home from work when we came across a grounded bird that we didn't recognize. It was beating its wings helplessly and trying to use its feet to crawl. Like most people, from childhood we had been largely unaware of wildlife, but we couldn't just leave it there. 

So we wrapped the bird in a handkerchief and took it home. Once home, we found out through the internet that our bird was a Swift (Apus apus, the Common Swift, which in Russian is called the "Black Swift").

But together with this information, there was a lot of conflicting advice and recommendations about the care and rehabilitation of grounded birds.

A juvenile that left the nest too early.
However, among a plethora of sites, some professional, some veterinary and some amateur, we found a couple of useful articles, one by a doctor of veterinary medicine, who was the Director of a specialist centre for the rescue of Swifts in Frankfurt-am-Main, Christiane Haupt; and one by a volunteer at the Centre, Hilde Matthes, about the proper care and feeding of rescued birds.

With the help of these professional recommendations, we were able to rear and safely release our grounded Swift. The moment when we saw our little Swift soar into the sky and join flocks of his fellow Swifts changed our lives forever. We had found an activity which has become for us much more than just a hobby.
This juvenile, with a broken bill,
was successfully rehabilitated.
In the following season when the Swifts arrived, we told a great number of our friends and colleagues about our passion, with the result that in 2012 we were able to rehabilitate 24 grounded Swifts.

The care and rearing of Swifts is a very demanding business. Swifts are delicate birds and need careful handling and constant attention. Careless handling, lack of attention to detail, unsuitable diet or insanitary conditions can all have disastrous consequences for the birds. The period was consequently very stressful for us but at the same time very joyful in that there is nothing more beautiful than seeing a bird that was once helpless fly from your hand and soar high into the sky.

We are now getting ready for the coming season when the Swifts arrive, which includes our decision to join the Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds [the Birdlife Partner in Uzbekistan] so as to continue our work on a more serious basis than simply our own enthusiasm.

Of course, our intention in helping Swifts is not purely environmental, but is aimed at promoting a caring and compassionate attitude to all wildlife, so that young people in particular may be not only better informed, but also spiritually enriched.

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