Conservation-Sparrow Man Opens His Home and Heart To Birds Struggling To Survive

March 2016
Edwin Joseph

While most of Bengaluru wakes up to the blaring of vehicle horns and screams from push-cart vendors, Edwin Joseph starts his day on a different note. The 64-year-old rises every morning to the cheery chirps of more than 200 sparrows.

Joseph, a retired BEML employee, has turned his house on Gospel Street in St Thomas Town into a sanctuary for these tiny birds, whose numbers in rapidly urbanising Bengaluru have plummeted from around 25,000 per sq km three decades ago to less than 50 per sq. km today.

The “Sparrow-Man,” as he is fondly known in the area, celebrated World Sparrow Day a fortnight ago by distributing sweets to his neighbours. He said some of them laughed at him, but he told them, “Everyone has a day to celebrate. Why not birds? We should also care for them like we do for our family members and fellow humans.”

Joseph’s love for sparrows was kindled more than a decade ago, while watching them feed on boiled rice thrown by his wife, Sarah, under some small trees on a vacant plot inside his compound.

“The trees were removed to build a house which I hoped to give on rent and use the rental to lead my post-retirement life,” Joseph said. “The birds moved to the hibiscus tree and lemon tree in front of my house but I decided I should do something for these birds. In fact, these two trees have been providing shelter to these birds for the last eight years.”

Now retired, his daily routine is to wake up at 5 am, get ready, feed the birds, water the plants, and then do house work. “The pension amount that I get is Rs 2,500 per month, which I spend on these birds,” he said.

He initially used to feed chicken, mutton and fish to the sparrows. But “after one of the sparrow conservation volunteers asked me not to feed non-vegetarian food to birds as it might affect their health and behavior, I stopped,” he said. “They also advised me to give egg as food every day. But there are 200 birds, which need a minimum of 20 eggs in a day. As I cannot afford it, I continue to feed them grains.”

He is not only touchy about the birds but also about the trees that shelter them—so much so that when a girl plucked the leaves from the lemon tree, he asked her to pull a strand of her own hair instead.

“I just wanted her to realise that even plants have life and plucking leaves causes as much pain to the tree as what it feels like when one pulls their own hair,” Joseph said.

Now, even his neighbours support his passion and do not allow people to pluck leaves from the lemon tree.

“Whenever he is out of town he would call up only to ask about these birds and if they are being fed on time—not about me,” his wife Sarah, 63, complained playfully.

People who are interested to watch these birds they can contact Edwin Joseph on 9141441890

World Sparrow Day

Started in 2010, every year on 20th March “World Sparrow Day” is celebrated on a large scale across the world. World Sparrow Day also has a broader vision to provide a platform where people who are working on the conservation of the House Sparrow and other common birds can network, collaborate and exchange conservation  ideas.

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