Save The Sparrow
“Wake up to the joyful chirping of sparrows.” Get up close and personal with the ‘Sparrow Savior’, Sadhana Rajkumar, whose life’s mission is to restore the little sparrow to its rightful place in the ecological food chain.
Sadhana Rajkumar is proof of how a mother’s quip can open a new world for her child. Looking out of her kitchen window, Sadhana’s mother expressed surprise one day that she couldn’t spot sparrows anymore, which prompted her dutiful daughter to launch into a research in the net. Sadhana’s brows furrowed when she learnt that the sparrow population was plummeting, especially due to radiation from mobile towers. She also learned that in England, people put up special enclosures and bird-feeders for sparrows and the number of sparrows increased miraculously. She made a few calls to the environment department of the government which did not lead anywhere. So, she decided to bring back the sparrows to the city of Chennai on her own.
Sadhana Rajkumar is a fitness and diet consultant. A former cricket captain in college and erstwhile secretary of Perambur Cricket Club, Sadhana runs at least two marathons every year for a social cause. She also plants tree saplings in her neighborhood every year.
Sadhana started her ‘Save the Sparrow” project by engaging a carpenter to make cheap nesting boxes for sparrows and started encouraging friends to get them for their homes. As a President of the Inner Wheel, Sadhana promoted the project. She also went to Marina Beach where people from different parts of the city go for a walk and distributed about 50 nests.
Feedback from excited people who hosted the nests were encouraging. Today Sadhana sources eco-friendly terracotta nests from Vepampatti village, helping potters there to make a living. Every three months she visits the village and brings back about 200 nests and bird feeders.
“Old buildings had tiled roofs and wooden beams, which offered little nooks for housing sparrows. Modern building architecture left no space for sparrows. Sparrows usually live close to human habitation and are friendly birds. Back then, houses had courtyards where women used to clean grains. Our house in Perambur had one in the center of the house where my grandmother use clean rice. Flocks of sparrows used to fly into our courtyard and pick at the grains strewn around,” she reminisces.
According to Sadhana, lack of food and water are other reasons for the dwindling of the species. Chennai used to have many ponds and fields which have disappeared. Homes and apartments are concrete jungles now without space for mud, which formed little puddles for sparrows to drink water. Chennai homes used to grow jasmine and other indigenous flowering plants that offered a rich crop of worms for sparrows. Today homes grow only decorative plants.
Sadhana says vector-borne diseases are on the rise because we have allowed sparrows to fly away. Sparrow fledglings feed on worms brought to them by mother sparrows, which pick up mosquito larvae and other worms. “Sparrows are losing their rightful place in the food chain. By saving them, we are benefitted more than the little birds. We need them more than they need us.”
Spreading the message
Sadhana’s unique endeavor is truly inspiring. People in Chennai can approach her to bring back the sparrows to their community. Sadhana has encouraged a fishing community to make space for sparrows in Besant Nagar. An officer-bearer of a gated community with huge gardens and water bodies was interested in fixing nesting boxes and bird feeders; today they have many sparrows.
Three years ago, Sadhana was instrumental in the creation of a sparrow garden at Besant Nagar Beach in Chennai. It has not been maintained and sparrows no longer visit the garden. Sadhana is contemplating shifting the garden to a different venue.
Many gracious Chennaites owe their gratitude to Sadhana Rajkumar for putting a smile on their faces and being the reason for their children’s happiness. A woman entrepreneur who had initially objected to the nesting boxes later confessed that waking up to the chirping of sparrows brought her great joy.
“My vision is to see sparrows in every house in Chennai,” Sadhana concludes, busying herself with the schedules for the next week which involves visits to schools to campaign for sparrows and organize little abodes for the sprightly birds.
What can you do?
Sadhana sources nesting boxes from a potter in Veppampatti village in Thirvallur, near Chennai. Made of earthenware, these boxes provide space for sparrows to lay their eggs during the breeding season. Nesting boxes can also be made from wood.
Place deep bowls of water and put millets or grains in bird feeders. Bird feeders can be made with small 200ml bottles by attaching two small plates at both ends and making holes in the bottles from which the sparrows can pick at grains placed inside the bottle.
Plant native species of shrubs around your home. In Tamilnadu, Kanakambaram, Nithiya Malli shrubs are good for sparrows.
Sadhana Rajkumar can be contacted at 9445249240