I recently returned from India and am still busy sorting out photos from that trip, some of which I will certainly share with you in next month’s update. In the meantime, I can say that I saw with my own eyes, yet again, the enormous impact that Animal Rahat is making on working animals’ lives.
In elephant news, Animal Rahat team members traveled to the Elephant Care Centre in Bannerghatta Biological Park—home of Sunder, the wonderful young elephant we rescued from years of abuse in a temple—to assist with a workshop hosted by PETA India. PETA India brought in internationally renowned elephant behaviorist Margaret Whittaker to teach the principles of the modern, humane protected-contact method of captive-elephant management, which does away with punishment-based training and the use of bullhooks.
As you will recall, Animal Rahat and PETA India have been working to make the Centre a state-of-the-art, model elephant-care facility. We were excited that session attendees included officials from several government agencies, as well as representatives from the New Delhi National Zoological Park and major wildlife-protection organizations in India. Building these connections could eventually lead to the alleviation of suffering by thousands of elephants all over India who are currently trained with force—and still chained and beaten every day.
Look at this handsome face with those gorgeous eyelashes! This is Roger, a bull calf we rescued who now lives at our Home for Retired Bullocks. He came to us when Animal Rahat received a call about a frightened calf who was injured in a road accident. Our veterinarians sped to the scene and saw that he had a 5-inch-long gash on one of his legs.
They went right to work setting up a place to operate, moving the calf onto the tarp that would serve as an “operating table,” anesthetizing him, cleaning and shaving the wound, and stitching it up. He wasn’t well enough to be transported all the way to our Home for Retired Bullocks, so the vets took him to a nearby goshala (cow sanctuary) to recover. Our vets made daily follow-up visits to provide antibiotics and painkillers. A week later, the wound had healed, the stitches were removed, and we welcomed Roger into the Animal Rahat family.
Other accomplishments last month included the following:
• Providing crucial veterinary treatment to 353 bullocks, 42 horses, 62 donkeys, 35 cows, 17 buffalo, and 586 goats, sheep, dogs, cats, birds, snakes, rabbits, and other animals
• Persuading five more bullock owners to retire their bullocks permanently and allow them to live at home for the rest of their lives, rather than selling them for slaughter
• Meeting with sugar mill managers about measures they are taking to alleviate the suffering of bullocks, as well as speeding up the process of replacing bullocks with tractors
We held workshops at three primary schools last month, using our award-winning Compassionate Citizen humane-education program. In the villages of Miraj Taluka and Sawali, more than 320 students and 17 teachers participated.
In Sawali village, we organized a rally to raise awareness of animal welfare issues. Led by young boys playing drums, the children marched through the village, carrying signs and calling out animal-friendly messages—such as urging people to be vegetarian, to avoid using manja (sharp nylon kite string that injures and kills birds), and to stop setting off firecrackers, which scare animals. In front of the village panchayat (council), officials greeted the parade and praised the students. It was a huge success—and definitely a day that the students will remember.
The dog in the photo below managed to avoid falling down this well (you can see a section of it in the bottom right corner)—thank goodness—but he got stuck in the landing area surrounded by high stone embankments. When Animal Rahat was informed of the dog’s plight, he had already been trapped there for two days. A villager had tried to get him out but couldn’t manage it.
Three of our staffers arrived as quickly as possible, and one of them climbed down onto the landing, reaching out to the dog, but he was terrified and would not let the staffer grab him. Sometimes it’s necessary to anesthetize an animal in situations like these, but in this case, our staffer took his time to calm and befriend the dog. After 30 minutes of patient reassurance, the dog relaxed and accepted being touched. Finally, he allowed our staffer to pick him up and lift him out of the well.
After an examination by one of our vets, he was released. We are planning to go back and neuter him soon. Our team is now in contact with the owner of the well and has persuaded him to build a fence around the embankments to prevent any future incidents.
Fortunately, we have been able to persuade a growing number of people to fence the wells in their communities, which will save countless lives, including human lives—when I was there, two women had already perished, falling into a single well. I met with one of the district collectors while there and put in an appeal to help us with this project.
So there has been progress in combating the menace posed by wells, of which there are hundreds, but I wish we could say the same about another danger: kite string. When kites get tangled in trees, people cut the kites down but leave the string on the branches. It can be deadly when birds’ legs and wings get caught in it.
For example, someone spotted this unfortunate raptor dangling by a wing and immediately sounded the alarm. Our staffers arrived on the scene within minutes. They cut the string and removed it from her wing, then took her to the home of a kindhearted volunteer who fosters recovering birds for us. A week later, the bird had recovered her ability to fly and was released in the same spot where we found her.
The rescue operation was a little trickier in the case of this unfortunate crow, who was stuck 40 feet in the air on a power line with her wing caught in kite string. To help her, our team had to ask local firefighters to bring their ladder truck and the state electric board to turn off the power. Fortunately, both entities were extremely responsive and immediately sent people out to help.
After the electricity was turned off, one of our staffers climbed up the firefighters’ ladder and cut the crow down. Her wing was so badly tangled up in the string that it took our vet 10 minutes to remove it all. This was of course very stressful to her, so we kept her under observation, but after drinking some water and resting for a while, she was able to fly away the same day.
Now that the year is coming to a close, it’s the perfect time for us to reflect on our gratitude for the compassion and generosity of Animal Rahat supporters. On behalf of all the animals whose lives we work to improve, from mighty elephants to sprightly crows, please accept our best wishes for a joyful holiday season!
P.S. Please consider donating to Animal Rahat today to help us rescue even more animals from cruel or life-threatening circumstances and improve the lives of India’s working animals. Thank you.