Saviours of urban wildlife

Saviours of urban wildlife

Fallen from the freedom of the sky one early morning, a broken-winged kite lay on the cobblestone pathway inside an apartment compound in west Bengaluru. Its only movement was a crawl — what its body afforded after repeated attempts at flying with one healthy wing. As no one around knew the kind of help to offer the bird, a call for rescue became necessary.

An hour after calling the People For Animals (PFA) wildlife hospital, located in North Bengaluru, rescuer Chethan arrived. He inspected the bird’s injury, tucked it inside a hole-punched cardboard shoe-box, and carried it away on his 2-wheeler. Mohawk (the kite’s nickname) would join hundreds of its kind at the hospital that has been rescuing and rehabilitating urban wildlife in and around Bengaluru since 1996.

An organisation with helplines open round the clock, and recognised by the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), its rescues as of March 2016 officially totals 19,725, comprising 8,068 reptiles, 2,994 mammals and 8,883 birds.

“Many people who call us are confused about the kind of work we do. We don’t have the permission or the facility to rescue and rehabilitate domestic animals like dogs, cats, cows. We take care of urban wildlife — monkeys, snakes, squirrels, deer, kites, crows, parakeets, owls, bats, tortoise etc,” says Naveen Kumar, wildlife rehabilitator and rescue manager at PFA, just outside his office within the 6-acre spread that makes up the peaceful rehabilitation space.

It’s where many busy squirrels squeak, majestic kites call out from the high branches of trees to active parakeets’ chirping.

In the course of 20 minutes, Naveen receives 4 calls on the helpline. He excuses himself to attend every one of them, and pacifies the callers by saying that help is already on the way. This is when any of the 6 rescuers set out on missions. “We also have a network of volunteers in place. In case of calls that seek domestic rescues, we share the numbers of organisations that work toward this cause,” explains Naveen.

Out there, the rescuers reach the heights of trees to bail out birds and animals; they lower themselves to the ground to spot a displaced snake — just 2 instances among the many adventures they have on a daily basis. Parakeets are rescued from the cages of fortune tellers; monkeys held in captivity at homes for years have been freed.

Price they pay
Most animals they bring to the shelter suffer injuries — like kites whose wings have been broken by manja threads during the kite-flying season; snakes whose spines are fractured. But the worst yet common affliction among monkeys is electrocution, says Dr Karthik M, one of the 2 veterinarians at PFA. “They are the most hopeless cases. They have pulmonary haemorrhage and are extremely distressed. We can’t do much to save them.”

Karthik’s interest in snakes motivated him to take up wildlife as his area of work. At PFA, he is also seen feeding nutrients to baby squirrels, bat pups and crow chicks, among other abandoned or orphaned newborns. “The wildlife in the shelter is interesting. Since it’s the hatching season, I go around to see if anything’s happening. It’s time to get snake hatchlings,” he adds.

An able ground staff of 7 prepare and feed food for the in-care animals at various stages of recovery and are responsible for the upkeep of the many enclosures there. The hospital has 3 ambulances to offer immediate aid to animals in distress.

The path to rehabilitation itself is systematic. Take monkeys, for example. They are extremely social animals. When a monkey is removed from its habitat due to an injury, it risks separation from its group, and the loss of social skills. So, at PFA, after it has been nursed medically, it is moved to a primate observation enclosure, and next to socialising cages, where its interaction with other monkeys is monitored and then facilitated.

Once the doctors deem it fit to return to the wild, paperwork is filed with the government to obtain permission for the animal’s release into the wild. But, not all can return to their homes. Like the macaque Nanny, who has lost her eyesight. She is the pride of PFA as the foster mother to many infant monkeys.

Naveen reasons that “humans have taken too much of their space for urbanisation. The least we can do is to create artificial habitats for them. In summers, place a bowl of water or grains on the terrace or in the garden for birds and squirrels.”

The organisation runs on donations from people, supplemented with the fees directed at burial facilities provided at the Pet Cemetery. You could support the City’s urban wildlife through PFA by adopting them and/or by volunteering at the shelter.

For details, visit www.peopleforanimalsbangalore.org or call 9900025370.

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