Rescuing animals during Cyclone Nivar

As the rain poured and wind raged, these Chennaiites sprung into action to rescue trapped animals, birds and reptiles

November 26, 2020 07:29 pm | Updated November 27, 2020 10:34 am IST - Chennai

Kirthana Raamsukaesh of Hope For Critters

Kirthana Raamsukaesh of Hope For Critters

“My phone has been ringing constantly,” says Kirthana Raamsukaesh, over a short phone call in between rescue operations. Her organisation, Hope For Critters, has been answering calls around the city, from people reporting stranded or trapped animals ever since Cyclone Nivar began to batter the city.

There are many organisations in the city that have been braving heavy winds and high waters to lend a hand to animals, reptiles and even birds who have been hurt by the cyclone.

Kirthana and a driver have been doing the rescues on their own, on their trusty animal “ambulance”, but are open to volunteers. “There are five people who help us with feeding. Usually, the money we get from this ambulance service goes into treatment and rehabilitation of the animals. But for Wednesday and Thursday, we are offering this service for free,” she says. “About 80% of our calls were for puppies in clogged and stranded areas.We rescue the puppies as well as their mother, and take them to a safer place,” says Kirthana, adding, “We also received some calls for stranded cattle.”

The Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary team

The Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary team

Arjun S of Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary (BMAD) in Chennai, points out that birds tend to get tangled or trapped in fallen trees as well. “But the damage this time has been less, compared to cyclone Vardah,” he says. Still, he says that over two days they “have done 10 to 15 dog rescues, three to four for cats, and a few for cattle.”

The BMAD rescue team operates South of the Adyar river, mainly in areas like OMR, ECR, Adyar, Besant Nagar, Indira Nagar and “a couple of stretches in Tambaram.” With the water level having risen to two or three feet inside waterlogged homes in OMR, not surprisingly, a bulk of their calls were for snake rescue. He adds that since these operations are wildlife-related, they are conducted in coordination with the State’s Forest Department.

So what do these operations consist of? Says Arjun: “Animals who have fallen in wells or ditches, animals who are trapped under fallen trees, and many disoriented birds.”

There is a lot that can happen to a bird in a cyclone, he points out. “They get disoriented, they get drenched, the younger ones can fall of the tree, they can fracture their wings… We treat each one differently, based on the situation and the species.”

BMAD had been prepared for this cyclone, preparing raised platforms, water-pumping motors and saws to clear fallen trees for the safety of their 300-plus resident animals. Arjun states, “We see these rescues as a pre-op: as a practice drill.”

Contact Hope For Critters on their Instagram handle, and BMAD on 9176543213.

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