(New Delhi) An Indian farmer, social media star due to his unusual relationship with a Sarus Crane, a large wild bird, calls on wildlife authorities to release his feathered ‘friend’, whom they have captured and caged in a zoo.

After six weeks of loving care from Mr. Arif, the bird recovered from its injury and was released back into the wild by its benefactor.

But against all odds, the crane stayed close to his home in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh and followed his good Samaritan on his motorbike trips.

“The bird stayed with its people during the day and returned in the evening. Or in the afternoon, when he was hungry, he would come and wait at our door,” Mr. Arif said.

The bird even ate out of his hand, he said.

The crimson-necked Sarus Crane is the tallest flying bird in the world. It can measure up to 1.80 m high.

Videos of the bird alongside his protector testifying to their exceptional relationship went viral on social media and soon Mr. Arif’s Instagram account gained nearly 300,000 followers.

But in late March, wildlife authorities abruptly ended the unusual bond and captured the bird for quarantine, planning to release it to a wild bird sanctuary.

Living in wetlands, the Sarus Crane is classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, fewer than 20,000 individuals remain in India.

Today, the amazing crane is in a small cage at a zoo in Kanpur, more than four hours away from Mr Arif who is urging authorities to release his ‘friend’.

On Tuesday, he finally went to visit the bird which did not hide its joy, with flapping wings and great jumps, during their reunion filmed and posted online.

“The bird immediately recognized my voice. He turned around, looked at me, he was dying to come to meet me,” Mr. Arif recounts, “he looked distressed, maybe he was expecting me to pull him out. from his prison.”

More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the bird’s release.

“The crane has committed no crime. Is being friends with humans a crime? Why punish the bird for no reason? “, can we read in the text accompanying the petition.

In the meantime, Mr. Arif is convinced: “As soon as they release him, he will come back to me”.