The Bird Man of Kheechan

Visit: Kheechan, a small village in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where the population of birds outnumber humans

Meet: Ratanlal Maloo, the man who has single-handedly called over 15,000 Demoiselle Cranes to his little hamlet from their homes in Mongolia and Eurasia.

Why: He has created a sanctuary worth visiting. The love and care he showed the birds ensured that their numbers increased year after year as word spread in their home-town!

Read on: and be amazed by the difference one man can make. To see the original article by The Better India, click here.

The crane is one of the oldest living birds on the planet and is a symbol of happiness and eternal youth. It is one of the mystical or sacred creatures and symbolizes good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. And living up to its identity, Cranes did change Ratanlalā€™s life over 40 years ago when his uncle requested him to return to his hometown from Odisha. Little did Ratanlal know it was a decision that would be metamorphic, completely altering his life and that of thousands of demoiselle cranes.

It all started when Ratanlal started doing the errand of feeding birds at the local temple. He eventually started attracting the Demoiselle Cranes, whose numbers started growing. It also brought along with it challenges for Ratanlal, who took it upon himself to protect the aviary visitors from stray dogs.

Whence before all else, Ratanlal got the panchayat to allow him some land on the outskirts of the village, and he coaxed the wealthier villagers to aid him to construct a 6-foot fence around what he called the Chugga Ghar or the Feeding Home. He subsequently managed a granary constructed to gather the grains that started pouring in from fellow Jain traders who were supportive of the cause. He even got a room constructed to house the injured cranes and bring them back to the pink, nay black and white, of health.

When asked about the quantity of food it requires to feed his special winged guests Ratanlal explained started off as a few innocuous kilos of grains in a year has presently become an astromicin 1 lakh kilos annually. In peak season today, an average of around 12,000 demoiselle cranes arrive as state guests from November to February!

Ratalal highlighted the cause for this peculiar habit of these demoiselle cranes sipping the blueness of the lake and then gobble copious quantities of the pebbles that lie on the lakeshores, after a sumptuous meal. The grains they nibble on are whole grains, these pebbles act as grinding stones and make it easier for them to digest them. At that point, they take a dip in the lake, and the more romantic among them indulge in ballet-like mating dances. Just before sundown, they call it a day. And fly off to Malhar Rinn to spend the night standing on one limb. This practice prolongs till March, when one day, without any warning, they fly off to the land of their birth, in the dead of night.

Declared as a World Heritage Site by the World Crane Foundation, Kheechan draws hundreds of Indians and foreigners who come to witness the spectacle of thousands of demoiselle cranes feeding right in the middle of a human settlement.

As of the 2011 census, the population of Kheechan was 7,025.