A man in Uttar Pradesh who went viral on social media for rescuing a sarus crane has been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, The Indian Express reported on Sunday.

Mohammad Arif, a farmer, had found the crane injured in a field and brought it to his home in Mandkha village of Amethi district in February 2022.

Arif had taken care of the bird over the next 13 months. “I put turmeric and mustard oil paste on its wound and tied a stick to the leg to give it support,” he told The Indian Express. “We do the same for our hens.”

Several videos on social media showed how the crane had developed a friendly bond with Arif and was often seen accompanying him. “It would stay in the jungle when it wanted,” he said. “Then, in the evenings it would come to my house and eat with me. I never held it captive.”

The sarus is the state bird of Uttar Pradesh and is a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which prohibits individuals from keeping or feeding it.

On Tuesday, officials had arrived at Arif’s home and told him that the bird could no longer stay with him. They had received orders from the Wildlife Department to confiscate it.

“I don’t know about wildlife laws,” Arif told the BBC after the development. “I’m a farmer. But if I had caged it, tied it up and hadn’t allowed it to go anywhere, then I could understand the forest department would want to take it away. But you saw that it flew around and came and went as it pleased. Did you ever see that I was constricting its movements?”

A day after the bird was taken away, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav held a press conference during which he criticised the action and asked indirectly if any official had the courage to take away the peacocks at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence in Delhi.

The party also claimed that the ruling BJP took action against Arif after Yadav visited the farmer and took a picture with the crane.

“The friendship and care he has provided to the crane resulted in a rare form of bond between the two,” Yadav said during the press conference. “The change in the bird’s behaviour is a subject of study. But saras was confiscated from Arif because I went to meet him. I had gone to congratulate him and that resulted in their separation. Is this democracy?”

Officials told PTI that the crane was shifted so that it can live in its natural environment. They first moved the bird to a Raebareli sanctuary from Arif’s home. After realising that the bird is no longer comfortable in the wild, they shifted it to the Kanpur Zoo on Saturday.