Art of empathy

Rescue shelters

Art of empathy

If you are searching for rescue shelters in Bengaluru, you will have a plethora of options to choose from. However, most of these work for dogs and cats, taking care of the abandoned, injured and unwanted ones. While it is true that stray dogs and cats outnumber any other species of the animal kingdom on our streets and these organisations are doing a commendable job, it is also necessary to care for other living creatures that face the same issues of neglect and brutality.

One of the known names in this field is ‘Vanamitra’, an NGO working in the field of wildlife conservation, with a special focus on the conservation of leopards. Founded around 8 years ago, it now has a volunteer network of more than 1000 people in Bengaluru. “We wanted to specifically focus on rescue and rehabilitation of smaller wildlife as there are too many organisations for the larger ones. People don’t focus on animals like leopards,” says Jaishankar V, the founder trustee of Vanamitra. “We have coordinated with the forest department many times and have rescued more than 50 leopards till now.”

Vanamitra’s rescue efforts are not limited to felines. They have been involved with snakes and birds and many other types of animals too. Recently, when birds started falling out of Bengaluru skies due to extreme heat, volunteers were inundated with calls for help from worried citizens. “We used to get around 10 to 15 calls daily. Mostly kites were the ones affected by the heat,” says Jaishankar.

‘Akhila Karnataka Prani Daya Sangha’ works for animals which should be the safest ones on our streets right now, though that is not really the case. “We work with cows and their progeny,” says Uttam Chand, one of the founders. “The institute has taken a stand to protect cattle from illegal slaughtering. We also protect cattle that is old and destitute, having outlived their usefulness for their owners.” The institute was started by an Ayurveda specialist, Dr Narayan, and has been around for more than 25 years now.

For Sandesh Raju, it was his love for animals that prompted him to do start ‘Samabhava’ after volunteering with NGOs for 17 to 18 years. “I did an introspection on what was lacking in an urban milieu like Bengaluru and realised that the majority of animal welfare organisations were for dogs, elephants and tigers. Working animals like horses and ponies were neglected. And then I set up ‘Samabhava’, using my lifelong savings.”

‘Samabhava’ has rescued around 49 horses so far, with most being donated by owners after they crossed their prime. “We get calls from the public mostly in the cases of
accidents. And these are usually very bad. Very few of the horses in such accident cases survive.” Uttam Chand has also had his share of tragic scenes. “It is a common sight for calves to be sold within 2 to 3 days of their birth. It is heart breaking to see them crying for their mother,” he says. “Villagers are mainly selling cattle to butchers now as it is not feasible for them to maintain herds these days.

Villages have to be better developed and water resources must be protected to ensure that at least those who want to maintain cattle are able to do so. We see so many stray cows wandering on our streets. The government can set up 1 ‘gaushala’ in every panchayat to tackle this problem.”

Sandesh Raju agrees that the government should play a bigger role and has a word of caution against short-term solutions. “People have been calling for a ban on ‘jutka’ horses and other working animals. This is a very myopic view of animal welfare. By banning, we are saving ourselves the pain of seeing such animals on the streets but the owners will be forced to sell them to tier II and III cities where laws are loosely enforced. The animals will be in a worse condition there. If a ban has to be brought about, the government should allocate 25 to 30 acres on the city’s outskirts for a
well-managed retirement home for these horses.”

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