KAWASAKI, Japan -- Kunitoshi Baba, a veterinarian in this industrial city near Tokyo, has for 17 years fought to save wild birds that have become victims of the rapid destruction of the natural environment near urban centers.
Mr. Baba, 42, has been looking after ailing wild animals and birds in his spare time since he opened his animal hospital in Kawasaki in 1973.
"We've continued to deprive animals of their habitats by ripping down trees from the mountains and filling in the tidelands," Mr. Baba said. "There are limits to what an individual can do, but someone has to protect them.
"What I'm aiming at right now is to establish an association with fellow vets for the treatment of wild birds," he said, "because I believe it is our duty as human beings who have been destroying nature and a responsibility of vets [to save the animals]."
Koichi Takahashi, a member of Field Assistant Network, a nature conservationist group in the Kanto area surrounding Tokyo, highly values Mr. Baba's activity.
"It's a common thing in the United States and Europe for veterinarians to take the lead in the protection of wildlife," he said. "In Japan, too, we hope that many vets, as well as the administration, will grapple seriously with the issue of nature conservation."
Mr. Baba's hospital is in a residential area near the Tamagawa River, which separates Kawasaki from Tokyo. According to Mr. Baba, with residential and industrial development in the area, an increasing number of birds are being brought in for treatment. Many, he says, are waterfowl injured after becoming tangled in fishing lines.
This year he has treated 60 birds, including sparrows, crows, turtledoves, magpies, herons and ducks, and returned them to the wild.
"I don't know how many of the birds set free will survive, but I'd like to do as much as possible to save them," he said.
Mr. Baba and his staff are particularly busy from May to September, when many young birds fall from their nests or are hurt in attempts to fly for the first time. The young birds keep Mr. Baba and his staff busy because they have to be fed every 30 minutes.
Not all his patients survive. Last month Mr. Baba treated an egret that had been tangled in fishing line that was still attached to the rod but could not save it.
"The rod was one made for children," he said. "I'm not against children enjoying fishing. As a matter of fact, I encourage them. But such accidents will continue to occur unless adults teach them proper fishing techniques."
Recently, two weakened streaked shearwaters were brought into the hospital.
"The birds live around Hachijojima," Mr. Baba said, referring to an island in the Pacific about 200 miles south of Tokyo. "I believe they were caught in a low pressure zone and carried here by the wind current."
Both birds are recuperating.