Over the past few weeks, Dr Sarungbam Yaiphabi Devi, a veterinarian in South Delhi, has treated an unusually large number of kites and pigeons dropping down from the sky, unconscious and dehydrated.

“Birds are the most affected by the heat,” said Devi. “I have received at least 15 cases over the past few months, which is quite a lot, considering that falling of birds is rare.”

As temperatures in India have touched record highs this summer, the heat has taken a toll on wildlife and domestic animals alike.

Veterinary doctors have had their hands full with cases of animals suffering from skin diseases, heat stroke, high fever and dehydration. Friendicoes, a non-profit organisation in Delhi that rescues and provides care for animals, has seen an increase in the number of sick animals brought to their clinic during the summer.

Uncaring pet owners have contributed to the problem. “People are keeping exotic breeds such as the Saint Bernard, that are not meant to be kept in India,” said Mandy Seth, the President of Friendicoes. “These dogs find it very difficult to adapt to such extreme climate.”

The situation has been exacerbated by the devastating drought across the country.

Carcasses of cattle that have died from hunger and thirst are piling up in eastern Rajasthan, despite the state having a separate ministry dedicated to caring for the cow. Reports of cattle succumbing to the heat have also come in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Meanwhile, masses of deer, leopards and elephants are migrating from the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh to the forests of Nepal, where it rained for a spell in April, The Daily World reported. Over a 100 elephants in the Dudhwa National Park are now migrating in search of food and water.

In an attempt to help animals cope, animal shelters and wildlife sanctuaries around the country have installed coolers and water pools. Wildlife SOS, an organisation that has 11 conservation centres across India, has installed water sprinklers for bears, apart from feeding them ice popsicles and glucose to tackle dehydration and fatigue.

A sloth bear at The Agra Bear Rescue facility. Credit: Wildlife SOS
A sloth bear at The Agra Bear Rescue facility. Credit: Wildlife SOS

In recent weeks, officials at Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park pressed tankers into service to transport 1.5 lakh litres of water to 100 sites to make sure the animals didn't go thirsty, The Times of India reported.

Birds usually have no problem coping with the heat as long as they have wetlands to bathe themselves in, said Isstiyak Ahmed, Education Officer at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi. “Birds have a thermoregulatory power, which allows them to maintain their body temperatures,” he said. “They are more resilient to the heat than even humans. They just need some water to bathe once in a while."

But now, there are no wetlands near Delhi and in many other cities for birds to go to, he said.

However, hope is round the corner. By Monday, the monsoon was active in coastal Karnataka and was working its way north.