NGO lends a helping hand to urban wildlife in and around Mumbai during lockdown
DURING the containment induced by the pandemic, nature reasserted itself in urban landscapes. Everyone had stories to tell of trees blooming more abundantly due to less pollution, hearing birdsong because there was no traffic and seeing more squirrels and squirrels and birds. As glorious as that was, there was also a downside and with it the awareness of the complex relationship between humans and urban wildlife.
In Colaba, south of Mumbai, for example, there was a sudden increase in the number of egrets and pond herons. They normally live and feed at Sassoon Wharf, where trawlers unload their catch, but with the cessation of fishing these birds have sought food elsewhere. Getting out of their area meant that they would challenge other birds, which resulted in territorial fights, especially with the crows. Likewise, the chicks had a lower chance of survival than usual as they were viewed as food by predatory birds and stray cats and dogs whose regular human feeders were kept indoors by the pandemic. And then there were cases of wild animals – leopards, snakes, large birds, crocodiles and even a jackal – entering densely populated but deserted urban areas and then needing to be rescued.
In and around Mumbai metropolitan area, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) has responded competently to calls for help. The organization carries out the rescue, rehabilitation and conservation of urban wildlife and had its hands full during the lockdown.
Pawan Sharma, the 29-year-old founder of RAWW, said: “We were saving more than four times what we normally save. Even with two ambulances, vets ready and 25 trained volunteers, Sharma said he was struck by “all the extreme work that there is to do with the wildlife.” “We have exceeded RAWW’s limit by saving over 1,600 wildlife in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar,” he said. “RAWW has responded to a record number of calls since March 2020. Since the lockdown, we have taken on more cases than we normally did each year, and there were several reasons for this directly. ‘other organizations like ours. suspend services due to travel restrictions or fear of COVID. We have a long association with the Forestry Department, and they know our work, so we were given passes.
“Due to the closure of many industries and hotels, food and water supplies in some areas have been reduced. The fauna depended directly or indirectly on these places. In addition, the roads were no longer used and so many animals started to explore the city and some of them got injured or stuck… because they do not understand the artificial borders.
Between January and June of this year, RAWW touched over 750 animals. More than 550 have been repatriated to the wild, while the rest are being rehabilitated.
Sharma said: “April, May and June are very difficult months for wildlife as they adapt from summer to monsoon. We are seeing a spike in snake rescues as aestivation [summer hibernation] period of several species of snakes ends with the onset of the rains. There are also rescues of birds and mammals that experience heat stroke. In those three months this year, RAWW carried out its largest number of rescues involving 268 reptiles, 179 birds and 31 mammals.
After Cyclone Tauktae, RAWW responded to approximately 300 calls from distressed wildlife. The calls lasted a week after the cyclone. Cyclonic winds displaced rare pelagic and migratory birds. An Amur falcon, sooty terns, flanged terns, a black-headed ibis and Indian pittas have been found deflected and exhausted.
The containment resulted in increased citizen participation and coordination between different NGOs and the Forestry Department. Local residents helped rescue a crocodile stuck in a drain in Thane, a three-year-old helped rescue a stranded turtle, and the Forestry Department’s Mangrove Cell rescued an injured pond heron.
So how does a mostly voluntary organization work for such a specialized need? Sharma said RAWW was a small organization with a “small placement, treatment and rehabilitation facility”. It has two ambulances and four on staff, although during the lockdown they had 25 trained volunteers. Staff and volunteers have been trained in wildlife management, and Sharma feels honored that RAWW is one of the few organizations recognized by the Forestry Department for wildlife rescue.
In coordination with the Forestry Department
The first thing the RAWW team does when they arrive at the site of an animal in distress is to assess the situation. Wild animals are fragile, and the team takes the animal’s fear and ignorance of humans into consideration when planning the rescue, knowing that these things will add to the overall precariousness of the situation. “After the rescue, the animals are taken for a medical examination where our vets examine and diagnose the injuries, which is followed by treatment. They are under observation and placed in foster care until they recover or go to rehab. Once declared fit by our veterinarians, they are released into the wild. The whole process is in coordination with the Forestry Department to maintain records and transparency, ”said Sharma, who makes sure to work within“ the legal framework during and after release ”as many rescued animals fall under the competence of the Fauna. 1972 (Protection) Act.
Elucidating further, Sharma said: “Some rescues only need the animal to be safely captured. When we see that they have no injuries, they are released after examination. Orphan animals must be rehabilitated and trained to be independent before being released. In extreme cases, animals that suffer serious injuries or undergo complex surgeries or amputations are sent to rescue centers and orphanages. Leopards and deer are taken to the rescue center at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali in Mumbai. Some are sent to Forest Department transit facilities, some are admitted to hospitals and treated, and some are hand reared and placed in our transit facility.
“The releases are both hard and gentle depending on the animal and the situation; rare animals are chipped and then released. Post-release monitoring of animals is also provided by our teams in collaboration with the Forest Service to ensure their safety and survival. Some cannot be found after liberation because they travel a great distance and their tracking becomes impractical. Animals with radio collars are quite rare in our country, but this year two leopards were fitted with radio collars and are being followed by researchers and the national park to study them. “
In January of this year, 65 star tortoises that RAWW had rescued from the illegal wildlife trade were released into the forests of Chandrapur in eastern Maharashtra. This was a first since this species has so far only been released in Karnataka where the natural environment is more favorable to it. Sharma said: “This species is not native to the state, but in a recent wildlife census they were recorded at the Maharashtra border and therefore the state decided to reintroduce them to the State itself…. There is a scientific procedure for analyzing the DNA of these species, after which we are able to determine their origin and then initiate their repatriation exercise with appropriate scientific techniques. These reptiles are first quarantined, then released in small batches with the right ratio of males and females to strategic locations where they can be easily monitored, and once they are properly adjusted, they are released onto a territory. wider.
RAWW also works with Adivasis. Sharma said: “We always believe that conservation or any change is only successful when the whole of society is involved and there are individuals and groups from all walks of life. Tribal people have lived with wildlife since the evolution of mankind and are very important stakeholders, so working with them has a big impact on the business. There was a time when they had no choice but to kill animals for their survival. However, with the changing times, we are trying to motivate and educate them to opt for alternatives like agriculture, harvesting, animal husbandry, with the help of various other NGOs and government programs, and we have saw changes in many tribal communities that once hunted and now protect wildlife.
Speaking about some of the lockdown rescues, Sharma described how a spotted deer fell through the roof of a house in a slum. “There were hundreds of people [around, and]… we had to save the animal safely and we did that last year … we always try to make sure our multitasking is done correctly as we have to make sure that the animal, the rescue team and the people around are all safe. This year, another difficult rescue came when a jackal fell into a well. He was safely removed, processed and released into the wild.
The animal runs away
Sometimes all it takes is patience and the animal runs away. Sharma said: “In April, a young leopard was seen in a former godown at NITIE in Powai. [National Institute of Industrial Engineering] Campus. It was suspected of being abandoned, but camera traps showed the presence of the leopard parent and another cub. RAWW was part of the strategic exercise with forestry officials and researchers providing ground support to ensure their safety. After a few days, he moved with the cubs on his own without any human interference.
Sharma said, “Then we have langurs and monkeys getting electric shocks on the outskirts of forests that need to be dressed daily and treated until they recover. And there are orphaned baby monkeys that need to be hand-raised and then put into groups. They must be trained to live independently before their release.
Sharma said: “Fortunately, rescue operations are generally successful, but the real rescue is only complete when the animal is released into the wild, and it totally depends on the state of each case, but, yes, we have a good success rate; … nearly 80 to 85% of our rescues are released into the wild.