NEW DELHI • A bird whose beak was sealed shut by a plastic ring and whose plight captivated social media users in India has been rescued, wildlife officials have said.
A photograph of the male black-necked stork spread on birdwatching forums in India this week and captured international attention. A birdwatcher named Manoj Nair snapped the photo on June 7 in a wetland in Gurgaon, a suburb of India's capital New Delhi.
Birdwatchers and state wildlife officials then mounted a frantic search for the bird, which was finally captured on Wednesday and taken to a bird sanctuary nearby for treatment. The stork is dehydrated but nibbled on a small fish and is in surprisingly good condition despite going without food for at least seven days, said Mr Nair.
The stork, classified as "near threatened", became the latest international symbol of harm that global plastic waste is doing to wildlife - from a turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nostril to a pilot whale that died off Thailand earlier this month with 80 plastic bags in its stomach.
About eight million tonnes of plastic pollute oceans each year, according to a 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The stork, which is about 1.5m tall, was found in the Basai area, considered by environmentalists as a key wetland habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife.
The stork is dehydrated but nibbled on a small fish and is in surprisingly good condition despite going without food for at least seven days, said birdwatcher Manoj Nair.
But it is not an officially protected wetland, according to the state government.
Although it attracts thousands of birds such as storks, flamingos and herons, the area has been used as a dumping ground for rubbish, birdwatchers said.
Mr Sunil Tanwar, a Haryana state wildlife inspector, said foresters and birdwatchers had camped at the wetland since last week hoping to capture the bird.
The bird will be released into the wild as soon as officials at the Sultanpur National Park and bird sanctuary deem it fit.