Mumbai: Himalayan vulture Booboo rescued in Reay Road gets blessing from Church

Oct 10, 2018, 14:45 IST | Hemal Ashar

Himalayan vulture found dehydrated on Reay Road, was rescued and looked after by family in Fort; is now ready to move out of his Mumbai fosters' home to the wild in Nashik

Mumbai: Himalayan vulture Booboo rescued in Reay Road gets blessing from Church
Donald D'Souza with Booboo and Fr.Joe D'Souza at St John the Evangelist Church at Ballard Estate. Pics/Bipin Kokate

It was Tuesday with a twist for St John the Evangelist Church (Ballard Estate) yesterday morning. The church had an unusual parishioner. Fr Joe D'Souza said with a laugh, "I have been holding Blessing of the Pets for 21 years now all over parishes in the city. Yet, one of the most unusual pets I have had to bless is this vulture called Booboo, which was brought into my church yesterday."

Beak taped
The Blessing of the Pets, the annual ritual will be held on October 14 at this SoBo church, yet the D'Souza family (no relation to Fr Joe D'Souza) brought in their pet, the vulture 'Booboo' yesterday, "as the forest department in Nashik has instructed them that Booboo has to be released in the wild today [Wednesday]. They will be taking the vulture to Nashik," explained Fr. Joe. He said he blessed Booboo, "after I was assured that his beak is taped," he added mirthfully. "I put my hand on the big bird's head and blessed the vulture. I made the sign of the cross thrice, for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I said, Praise you Father, Praise you Son, and Praise you Holy Spirit, now this vulture is going to be released in the wild, help it to enjoy its new found life."

The vulture with Vanessa D'Souza
The vulture with Vanessa D'Souza

Heartfelt prayer
Fr Joe who termed his experience blessing the vulture as "unique" said he blesses pets, "by praying directly and spontaneously. I say it straight from the heart. We have certain stock prayers for birds, animals but I say my own prayer for them." The blessing of pets usually happens in October and it is in honour St Francis of Assisi, who is the Patron Saint of God's Creatures. Fr Joe said he conducts the blessings but, "after I leave a certain parish, and am transferred to another one, there is usually nobody who will continue the tradition in the parish I have left behind."

Name game
Vanessa D'Souza, whose family, father Donald, mother Joanita and uncle Pradeep found Booboo explained, "We found the vulture eight months ago, it was dehydrated, hurt and had fallen on Reay Road, which is not too far away from our Fort home. My uncle Pradeep brought it home. The Nashik Forest Dept is going to release it in the wild today. Booboo is a Himalayan Griffon species of vulture." Booboo is nearly three-feet tall with a wingspan of around nine feet and weighs around 12 kg. Vanessa said that she decided to call the vulture the deceptively innocuous Booboo, because, "my friends call me Boo."

The D'Souzas chose Nashik to release him in as the region has more than a 100 vultures of different species in the wild and the Forest Department has set up a 'Vulture Restaurant' where carcasses of various creatures are placed for these carrion birds to feast on. Pradeep who used to feed Booboo and was its caretaker said, "This is essentially a migratory species and Booboo will have no problem surviving in the wild. It is we, the family who will have a problem at least initially, because we were very close to the bird and are going to miss Booboo very much," he ended wistfully.

Largest, heaviest
The Himalayan Griffon vulture is perhaps the largest and heaviest bird found in the Himalayas. They are usually strong and highly-aggressive birds. The birds' weight ranges from as little as 6 kg to as much as 12.5 kg, but weight can vary with conditions. The wingspan of the birds varies greatly depending on the method used to measure them and published measurements vary from 8.4 feet to 10.2 feet.

Blessing of pets
Fr Joe D'Souza will conduct a blessing of the pets at St John the Evangelist Church (Ballard Estate) on Sunday, October 14, at 10 am.

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