More than 80 rescue operations this year and still counting, the Wild Animal Rescue Centre (Warc) at Kodanadu, under the Department of Forests, has its hands full.
Warc is flooded with calls for rescue of a wide variety of animals, ranging from the king cobra to rat snakes and crocodiles, said a department official. He said that the centre had received two calls on Saturday from Palluruthy and Aluva from people who had found pythons in their neighbourhoods.
Warc’s star rescuer Berchmans, a veteran of 25 years, was called up on Saturday by his bosses to rescue a toddy cat (Asian palm civet), from Perumbavoor, a town famous for its plywood factories. The townspeople consider toddy cats a big nuisance for their noisy growls and their nasty odour.
They are frequently found in abandoned buildings and in dark attics across the town, said the textiles shop owner, who anxiously called Warc for help after he found a toddy cat caught in a big rat trap on the attic of his shop on the Perumbavoor-Aluva road. “You can make out the nasty smell from far. No amount of perfume spray can keep it at away”, said the shop owner as he led the Warc team to the ground floor of his shop where the animal was kept, far away from glaring lights that upset it. Mr. Berchmans took a look at the animal and said, “This is a fat one, and well kempt too” though it appeared to have injured its nose against the rat trap.
Unmindful of its angry mood, Mr. Berchmans whipped out a plastic sac and set to work to transfer the animal from the rat trap to the cage he had brought. He wrapped the bag around the rat trap and prodded the animal to walk into the sac, which was immediately secured at its mouth. The sac was then slowly lowered into the cage and kept only partly open to shut out the light.
As he secured the cage with a strap, he advised the shop owner to keep his attics lighted throughout the night so that toddy cats kept away. But he warned that they would find a dark attic somewhere, probably in a neighbouring shop.
The Warc personnel had arrived in good time, Kodanadu being about 15 km away from the town. This is not an exception, said a Warc official. He said that it is not so easy always to respond to calls. For example, he said, he had received a few calls from people who had seen rat snakes trapped in nets that were used as protection over drinking water wells.
Mr. Berchamans said he had rescued two large king cobras this year from Kalady and Malayattoor areas. The Forests Department official said that their rescue operations have included monkeys, cobras, pythons and vipers. The more exotic of the rescues was a crocodile and a rhesus monkey, last year.
More recently, personnel from Warc rescued a monitor lizard from Palluruthy. The lizard, which strayed into a home in the town, was rescued by a person who called up the Forests Department after it started laying eggs.