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.

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