There couldn’t be a better time to shed light on how we humans are gradually destroying our planet. Aptly themed ‘Time for Nature’, the focus of World Environment Day 2020 is on how humankind is on the verge of a breakdown and why it is time to save our resources and reconnect with nature. Hosted by Columbia, in partnership with Germany, June 5 will see over 100 countries virtually commemorate the day with events, seminars and discussions.
But in India, with the conversation revolving around the ruthless killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala earlier this week, we decided to shift our focus to the country’s thriving wildlife and the unique efforts by its caretakers to keep the show running during lockdown.
VGP Marine Kingdom, Chennai
Ever since VGP Premdas, CEO, put out a call for funds via video late last month, people have been rushing to adopt fishes, stingrays and sharks at the country’s first underwater aquarium. With monthly expenditures of ₹35 lakh (electricity, technical staff, feed, air conditioning) largely depending on ticket sales, the lockdown was a blow to revenues.
Premdas says, of the three initiatives planned, the first was to sell tickets virtually with a year’s validity and slash prices to 50%. “We also launched an adoption programme (starting at ₹500 a month) wherein you can virtually feed a fish and we will share videos and a certificate,” he says. In a week, they will launch an interactive virtual tour of the aquarium (₹300) for families. “Via a Zoom call, we will take them through the facility’s five habitats: rainforest, gorge, mangrove, coastal and deep ocean. Q&A sessions will also be organised during the session.” Details:vgpmarinekingdom.in
Blue Cross of India,Chennai
Since March, the animal welfare charity continued to keep its rescue activities open (for critical animals) and focussed on treating, feeding and maintaining the approximately 1,800 animals at the shelter. The lockdown fundraising kickstarted with a ketto campaign in early March (over ₹14 lakh has been raised till date) and has been followed by community volunteer initiatives.
“We then launched the Karuna lockdown Street Animal Nutrition Programme to feed street dogs [at the beach, along the IT corridor, etc] and went on to start a WhatsApp group comprising 150 community feeders. We provided them with food and earmarked areas around their homes for them to cover,” says Sathya Radhakrishnan, joint secretary, adding how they continue to feed nearly 3,000 animals, including dogs, cows and horses (at the beach) a day. “The entire programme’s value is a little over ₹21 lakh and we have fed approximately 95,000 animals as of June 1,” he adds. Details:bluecrossofindia.org
SAI (Save Animals Initiative) Sanctuary Trust, Coorg
With over 300 acres under their protection, Pamela Malhotra and husband Anil have always encouraged people to visit their sanctuary in the Kodagu district. This year has been different as the eco-tourism wing had to be closed in March. “A majority of our expenses are paid from our own pockets and donations are few and far between [even smaller donations have stalled now],” says Pamela.
Monthly expenditures at SAI can go up to ₹6 lakh, including costs towards replacing stolen/broken camera traps, looking after wildlife (for rehab and eventual release), and sponsoring workshops. “We haven’t been able to put out a call for funding or launch a sponsorship programme because we have poor internet and telephone connectivity,” says Pamela, adding that the lockdown, however, has been good for wildlife. “Asian small-clawed river otters are found at SAI and this year, I documented Eurasian otters that have not been seen in the region for over a century. Both have been listed as ‘Schedule 1’, meaning ‘most endangered’.” The duo is now pushing for a river otter sanctuary which, with the enhanced protection for the area, will also help local communities with purer and unpolluted river water for drinking. Details:email@example.com
Trunk Call Foundation, Maharashtra
Anand Shinde, the ‘elephant whisperer’ from Thane, had his hands full this lockdown. Known for his conservation and rehabilitation projects for elephant calves in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Rajasthan — and projects with forest departments in various states — he has been raising funds for three projects.
“We have been feeding over 80 street dogs in Thane and we have also raised ₹1.5 lakh for the affected elephants in Thailand, with help from the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] and the Indian Embassy in Bangkok. We initially wanted to send fodder, but that was not possible due to the lockdown,” says Shinde, who will be sending the funds on World Environment Day. He also assisted the Maharashtra forest department with the delivery of an elephant calf at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve via video call. “I am now tracking the Nisarga cyclone and trying to safeguard birds. We have 25 artificial bird nests and they will be installed if trees get uprooted.” Details:facebook.com/TrunkCall.WildLifeFoundation
- Known for its community-based marine conservation and education programmes, the organisation has now put forth 13 acres (adjacent to their Biodiversity Education Centre in Marakkanam) to assist captive elephants during the pandemic.
- “We offered the use of our existing infrastructure and facilities to six jumbos and their mahouts/helpers, who are struggling due to the lack of funds and fodder,” says founder Supraja Dharini, adding that planning their budgets one to two years in advance has helped them stay afloat during the lockdown.
- As for fundraising, she says, “It is not about money always. We constantly request people to provide physical support or in-kind help, such as educational and hygiene kits.” Details: treefoundationindia.org
Wildlife SOS, New Delhi
As on-ground animal care teams continue to watch over elephants, bears, leopards and reptiles, emergency rescue teams at the non-profit have also been in action this lockdown. “While the pandemic has driven people off the streets, calls involving urban wildlife have increased,” says co-founder and CEO Kartick Satyanarayan, adding that they have catered to over 150 calls via their 24-hour animal rescue hotline in Delhi NCR alone.
Apart from the Emergency Disaster Fund, they are also garnering support for their sponsorship and online adoption programme. “Sponsors receive an e-package, which includes photos of the leopard, elephant or bear they are sponsoring, a biography, periodic updates about the animal, and a personalised certificate,” he says. Details: wildlifesos.org/sponsor-an-animal
India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN), Masinagudi
Nigel Otter shells out approximately ₹2 lakh a month for the upkeep of his Hill View Farm in the Nilgiris. Home to 200 rescued animals — donkeys, ponies, horses, dogs, cattle, buffaloes, goats, sheep and a lone cat — he says as animal care and veterinary services are listed as essential, their vehicles could pick up and transport feed during the lockdown.
“Given our location, most of our support does not rely on visitor donations. Some people have donated hay/straw for feeding cows and others who have previously rescued animals, have sent donations,” says Otter, who is promoting his ‘Adopt a Pony’ concept wherein you receive a photograph of the adopted animal, can schedule visits and you also get to participate in the annual Hill View Farm Pony Club.
He is also encouraging people to buy vermicompost produced at the farm. “Donations in kind [animal feed, feeding bowls and building materials to help maintain the enclosures] are always welcome. Right now, we require a chain-link fence [to repair broken fences because elephants often walk through the farm, breaking them as they go].” Details: hillviewfarmanimalrefuge.com/adopt-a-pony