Thursday, 30 March 2017

Close call for Heckle and Jeckle

I was about to leave my office to attend my friend Eddin's jazz performance at No Black Tie on 21st March when my good friends Rudhra and Angela sent a message to our Whatsapp group informing me of two glue-covered mynahs they had rescued.

There was no question about what I should do next. I was there within half an hour.

I will let Rudhra tell this story in his own words:
"I was about to begin my run yesterday evening when a man walking ahead of me stopped in his tracks and beckoned. By the wall of the TTDI primary school, amidst a heap of rubbish, leaves and branches lay a mynah. It didn’t look injured although its movement was inhibited -- upon closer inspection, we discovered that its body and feathers was coated in a sticky substance. I suggested bringing it back to Angela (my wife’s) house to get it cleaned up and just as we were leaving, out popped a second and larger mynah from under the branches. Unfortunately, it was in a similar state so we gathered both mynahs and left.

By the time we got home the mynahs had become rather distressed. After a while, the man (whose name was Paul) had to go and wished us the best. Angela and I spent the next half hour trying to clean them (or find them) as they hopped and hid all around the garden, behind pots, plants and in the drain.

I decided to contact my friend Ee Lynn for advice -- Ee Lynn has a lot of knowledge and experience in caring for and rescuing animals so if there was anyone I knew who could help, it was her. She gave me a list of things to do (and NOT to do) but feeling a little overwhelmed and uncertain of my ability (I feared causing them further distress or worse, injuring them) I asked if she would come over. Despite having plans to attend a show later that night, she said yes – she’d be right there and boy, was I relieved.

Ee Lynn arrived about 20 minutes later and spent the rest of the evening just being Ee Lynn. With unreserved patience, care and compassion she set about the task of cleaning and comforting both mynahs. After over an hour of oiling and scrubbing, she had gotten nearly all of the gunk off so we placed them in a box with water and food to dry off over the night. Ee Lynn was late for her show of course, but it did not matter – making sure the mynahs were OK was her priority and thankfully, they were.

This morning, Angela and I released them in the park. They hopped around, flew a bit and made for the bushes and trees. Their wings were still a little damp but it’s a hot day outside and I imagine they’ll be ok once they’ve dried off completely. Thank you Ee Lynn for saving these mynahs and, as always, for being an exemplar of kindness and humanity. You rock."
(All photo credits: Rudhra.)
I named the mynahs Heckle and Jeckle, even though I know that in the animated series, Heckle and Jeckle are magpies, not mynahs.
This is the state that Rudhra found the Jeckle in.
First, I carefully rubbed talcum powder onto the bird's feathers to make the glue less sticky and easier to handle. From its viscosity, texture and appearance, I think the birds have gotten themselves stuck in a glue trap. They must have also tried to free their feathers from the glue using their feet and beaks, which were all covered in glue as well.
I massaged each bird carefully with lots of olive oil and gently rubbed the glue off.
Each bird was then shampooed and rinsed off and the cycle of oiling and shampooing was then repeated 3-4 times until there are no traces of gunk left.

Angela and Rudhra put the exhausted, wet and frightened birds in a ventilated box with some uncooked rice and drinking water so they could rest and recover overnight.

The birds were still a little wet but looked much healthier and stronger in the morning.
Goodbye and good luck, Heckle and Jeckle! Take care! We love you!

It helps to remember these very basic things to do when you find a bird covered in glue from a glue trap:
1. Switch off all ceiling and table fans to prevent the birds from getting themselves killed while trying to escape.
2. Close all windows, toilets and anything that a panicking bird could fall into or out of, and get killed or injured in its attempt to escape.
3. Use powder or flour on feathers to make the glue easier to handle. Avoid getting any in the bird's eyes, nostrils or beak. It may be easier to apply the flour/powder if you pour the flour or powder into your hand first.
4. Now use oil and massage it into the feathers gently. Use your fingernails to GENTLY and LIGHTLY scrape off the glue.
5. Lather the feathers with shampoo. Again, avoid the eyes, nostrils and beak.
6. Rinse.
7. Repeat steps 4-5 until there is no stickiness left.

Here is Birdlife International's basic guide on what to do when you find a bird in need. If you live in KL/Selangor, you can also contact Dr. Jalila Abu of the Avian Vet Unit of UPM at 03 8946 8340.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Letter to the Editor: Protect Ulu Muda from Logging

The report of continued logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest complex (The Star, 9 March 2017) is a cause for alarm. The Green Living Special Interest Group of the Malaysian Nature Society supports the call of Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Penang Water Supply Corporation to terminate all logging and quarrying activities in the Ulu Muda forest complex immediately.
The 160,000-hectare forest complex, covering 7 forest reserves, is a critical water catchment area for the northern states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang and supplies water to, among others, the Ahning, Muda and Pedu Dams. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia, the Ulu Muda forest complex supplies as much as 96% of Kedah’s, 50% of Perlis’ and 80% of Penang’s water supply.
The Kedah State Government has been aware of the logging activities in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve for years, and the Kedah Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy Committee had assured the public since last year that it would look into the issue of logging permits and the possibility of gazetting the entire forest reserve as a water catchment area (The Star, 16 May 2016).
The 2016 drought affecting the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia is directly linked to logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest complex, which affected climate and water cycle patterns, resulting in a massive decline in dam water levels and a postponement of the paddy planting season.
In addition to providing water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use, Ulu Muda also provides vital ecological services such as climate regulation, soil erosion prevention, biodiversity conservation and maintenance of soil, water and air quality. Without the root system of this rainforest complex to absorb and slowly release rainwater, heavy monsoon rains would end up washing over the exposed cleared forests, resulting in soil erosion, landslides, flash floods and the silting of rivers.
Forest clearing releases stored carbon dioxide, which traps heat and contributes to atmospheric warming. A fully-grown tree releases 1,000 litres of water vapour a day into the atmosphere. The reduced ability of a cleared or decimated forest to absorb solar energy and release water vapour leads to higher temperatures and a decline in rainfall. One can imagine the ecological fallout if logging were allowed to continue in Ulu Muda.
From a human dimension, Ulu Muda provides economic and sociocultural services which include ecotourism, the harvesting of forest products and a home for indigenous and rural communities.
The preservation of the Ulu Muda forest complex is not a political issue and not merely the concern of environmental organisations. It affects the very survival and food and water security of a significant percentage of the population of Peninsular Malaysia. When the survival of present and future populations is at stake, apportioning blame to political parties and previous administrations is unproductive and downright harmful.
Malaysia stands to gain more economic benefits from keeping its forests intact and biologically diverse, than from issuing permits for logging, mining and road construction in forested areas. The economic benefits of logging are short-lived and can sustain only 1-2 generations at most. If the federal and state governments wish to cultivate long-term prosperity, they need to afford greater protection to rainforests, which are worth more alive than dead. There is little point in governmental and municipal initiatives such as recycling and tree-planting campaigns, which smack of environmental tokenism, if state governments and the Federal Government are unwilling to cooperate to conserve and protect the Ulu Muda forest complex.