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COVID-19: PfA continues to work for animals in distress

Care and compassion rules supreme for People for Animals even during the lockdown

April 01, 2020 03:46 pm | Updated 03:46 pm IST - Bengaluru

The clock has not stopped for People for Animals (PfA). The non-profit animal welfare organisation that has worked for 24 years rescuing more than 25,774 wild animals from 201 species, continues to do so during the 21-day lockdown as well. The Bengaluru-based centre rescues, treats and rehabilitates urban wild animals and releases them into their natural habitats.

“These animals, found in and around the city, are injured, displaced or orphaned,” says Col Dr Navaz Shariff, Chief Veterinarian and GM at PfA Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre. “The lockdown has meant looking closer at animal needs. Our rescue team will also be conducting raids on pet shops to save animals locked inside. We will send the rescued animals to domestic animal welfare organisations for further care,” says Navaz who steers a team of veterinarians and rescuers. Shariff spoke to MetroPlus on PfA’s work.

Excerpts

How many calls do you get in a day during the lockdown?

We receive an average of 15 to 20 calls daily. Calls regarding the rescue of domestic animals are rerouted to domestic animal rescue organisations. We are rescuing around a dozen animals on an average during the lockdown.

What are your suggestions for animal care during these times?

There has unfortunately been a lot of conjecture around COVID-19 and its connection to bats, snakes and pangolins. All this unproven information should not stop people from saving animals. After all, PfA was born initially to create awareness on the rights and needs of animals, both domestic and wild. We later took a conscious decision to focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of urban wildlife.

What are the PfA activities that have been stopped due to the lockdown?

As of now our awareness drives in schools, colleges, offices and communities have been stopped. We initiate special programmes such as replenishing water sources in fringe forests and that will be undertaken soon. The pet cemetery we run is open. We are licensed by the Karnataka Forest Department and recognized by the Central Zoo Authority of India and the Animal Welfare Board of India.

Have you observed any difference in animal and bird behaviour during the lockdown?

People have been telling us they are enjoying birdsong and there is definitely a decrease in human-induced injuries to animals. The decrease in the number of vehicles has saved a lot of animals from being run over. Birds are also able to breathe better due to an improvement in the quality of air.

What are PfA’s projects for summer?

All reports indicate soaring temperatures this summer and hence, we are initiating our yearly campaign, Project Quench Thirst - Turahalli Forest. Wildlife in the Turahalli Forest region in South Bengaluru suffers every year without water. The most susceptible is the spotted deer. They venture out of the forest in search of water only to be attacked by dogs or meet with accidents on the road.

While we carry out a lot of awareness sessions in various parts of the city to educate people about this issue, the situation now is not conducive to stepping out. We aim to raise money virtually to replenish water sources in the forest. Funds are also required for the treatment of 208 animals at our hospital.

Could you describe how you rescue animals in distress?

The PfA Wildlife Hospital & Rescue Centre has a fully operational hospital with trained veterinarians and rescuers. We have a four-step modus operandi — rescue, recovery, rehabilitation and release. The rehabilitation centre reintegrates displaced, injured and orphaned animals into a mock natural habitat, before they are released into the wild. Special releases into forest areas, such as jackals, are conducted with the Karnataka Forest Department, while birds such as kites are released in city limits.

We are authorized to carry out rescues for the Karnataka Forest Department and often work in tandem with them and other municipal or governmental bodies. The most frequent requests are related to injuries and accidents due to human interaction.

Could you list out some of the frequently rescued animals?

Mammals such as the Indian jackal, slender loris, blackbuck, Indian flying bat and the Malabar giant squirrel are some of the animals we rescue. Birds such as the great Indian horned owl, Eurasian sparrow hawk, little grebe, painted stork and the white headed munia are among our frequent rescues. We have also rescued reptiles such as the marsh crocodile, Indian rock python, Indian chameleon, saw-scaled viper and the Indian tent turtle.

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