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A Dash of Cheer
Shakuntala Majumdar

 

As a community of people who love and care for animals and their welfare, we come across depressing, tragic and heart-wrenching stories frequently. We have to battle negativity and inhumanity every day and plough on with courage to achieve the one goal – making life better for our furry, clawey and beaky friends. As such, an unexpected dose of positivity, a sudden hopeful story and an unanticipated dash of cheer, can bolster the animal lover’s spirit like nothing else can. Thankfully, even as the volley of cruelty towards and man’s blatant abuse of animals continues unabated, the ‘human’ side of humanity too grows stronger with each passing day. There are hundreds of stories worldwide (and growing) of animals being rescued from abuse and neglect, treated, nurtured, rehomed, wildlife being rehabilitated in their natural habitats, academicians researching increasingly better welfare techniques, lawyers fighting for animal rights and wildlife conservation, homeless shelter animals being adopted and so on and so forth. Here are a few such stories from around the world to warm the heart and induce optimism in a dreary worldview.
 
It’s not just about dogs though. Read about how cattle are being rescued and successfully rehabilitated by organizations in http://www.animalaidunlimited.com/programs/street-cows/ and in http://www.karunasociety.org/projects/hospital-for-large-animals 
 
It’s a small but rapidly growing movement. Its an indirect yet profound way that animal abuse is being eradicated slowly and steadily. It is the introduction of the concept of Veganism into Indian society by organistions like www.indianvegan .com and sharan-india.org. It will ultimately save many more animal lives than any single large campaign.
 
Zero Avenue – a region located on the Canada-U.S border, was witness to an international rescue operation, when a large, white and very lost dog was found struggling to stay afloat, after having fallen through a large chunk of weak ice, 300 feet from the shore. His head was barely above the water when a local farm owner noticed him and rushed back to his house for help. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) immediately responded saying that backup would be there soon, but unfortunately, the dog was in the U.S. side of the pond and the U.S. Border Patrol had to be called in. Once their reinforcements arrived, Border Patrolmen rowed out in a tiny little row boat and dragged the dog (who happened to be a very large animal) through the dangerous waters, back to shore. Once the dog was on the Canadian side again, the farm owner along with his family, friends, the dog’s owner (who had arrived by then) and the RCMP officials, pulled the dog out to safety. He went home safely with his human and has now completely recovered from the ordeal. As for the international rescue team – what can one say, except that ‘A real man in uniform is kind to animals.’
 
Speaking of men in uniform, one of the most touching stories that got very famous recently was about an U.S. Army Sergeant who performed an act of kindness which was a stark (and much applauded) contrast to the horrors of Afghanistan, where he was posted. He found a mud-covered dog, tied-up by some people. The animal’s ears and tail had been hacked off and he would clearly not have survived in that condition for long. The sergeant traded his cigarettes in for the dog and made an arrangement with the Puppy Rescue Mission to transport the dog through the treacherous Taliban roads to his new home in the U.S. The pair were reunited in Florida and numerous readers the world over were left teary-eyed, but they were tears of happiness and pride, about one soldier’s act of true bravery in a foreign land.
 
It’s not just about dogs though. U.K.’s RSPCA recently rescued a young male badger that found himself entangled in a football net in Warwickshire. Caked in mud and exhausted from the ordeal of trying to disengage himself from the offending net, the badger was finally recognizable after an initially partial net cutting session, then a shower, followed by a final net cut under anesthesia. He recovered soon after and was successfully released into the wild.
 
Another success story comes from the Pacific Marine Mammal Centre (PMMC) in California, which rescued and played host to a little elephant seal, found at Laguna’s main beach. At just 96 pounds, she was extremely dehydrated and needed immediate care. After a lot of fish smoothies, hydration therapy and lots of love & care, she was successfully released into the ocean’s wilderness – at a healthy weight of 300 pounds. Hurrah for the PMMC team!
 
And what’s more, it’s not just the Europe and U.S.A. that keep churning out these great rescue and rehab success stories. Asia is fast becoming a hub for animal people and their successful endeavors. 
 
Singapore’s  Animal Concerns Research and Education Centre (ACRES) has been pioneering animal welfare and education activities in the island nation. ACRES has rescued a lot of animals from the illegal wildlife trade and have rehabilitated as many into the wild as possible. One such story is that of Blue’s – a young Vervet monkey from South Africa, that was found chained within a rusty cage in Singapore. He was confiscated by ACRES and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and was fostered in a rescuer’s home for three days before being sent to the Singapore Zoo. After a year of hard work, Blue was finally repatriated to the Munda Wanga Sanctuary in Zambia. ACRES also rescued a female Rhesus Macaque called Asha, from a chained existence in a small makeshift shack in Singapore. She was housed at Singapore Zoo and when Wildlife SOS of India heard of her, they immediately agreed to take her in. After months of corresponding with the authorities and stumbling through paper roadblocks, all the permits were obtained and Asha returned to the country of her birth – India. Thanks to ACRES, both Blue and Asha will have a happy life with other monkeys and lots of space to do what monkeys do best – monkey around. 
 
Wild animals of India do have a lot of hope with organizations like Wildlife SOS and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) working non-stop in aid of India’s beleaguered wildlife. For instance, in July last year, a sub-adult Asian elephant found herself trapped in a clay sanitary pit on the outskirts of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Eastern Assam. It must have strayed into the Kordoiguri village and accidentally fallen into the tank. Forest officials and staff of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and WTI, members of organizations like Evergreen Earth and Prakriti and local villagers all pitched in to help the distressed and weakened animal. She was given vitamins, steroids and pain killers, while the sand around her was leveled out for her safe passage. After night-long efforts, the elephant walked out safely and calmly walked back into the national park. 
 
Smaller animals also benefit from the efforts of organizations like IFAW and WTI. This February, around 500 star tortoises were confiscated from a smuggler in Malaysia and they were repatriated to Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai for appropriate care. Eventually, these creatures, endemic to the Indian sub-continent, will be rehabilitated into the wild, as per IUCN’s Guidelines, by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, assisted by IFAW and WTI. 
 
Meanwhile, IFAW-WTI’s rehabilitation programme for the Asiatic Black Bear in northeast India, has turned out to be another brilliant success story, as a two-year old Black Bear, which was hand raised and then released into the wild last year, has been found happy, healthy and thriving in his new ‘home in the wild’. This was confirmed once the sub-adult was tracked to a region in Arunchal Pradesh and had its radio collar removed. IFAW-WTI have rehabilitated 26 such orphaned Black Bear cubs in collaboration with the Arunachal Pradesh and Assamese Forest Departments. 
 
WTI has also collaborated with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to promote conservation and welfare of Sloth Bears. And the organizations have chosen a very sustainable way of doing this. 24 former bear dancers from Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, facilitated by WTI-WSPA’s programs, gave up bear dancing and embraced more cruelty-free means of livelihood. As of this year, these reformed bear dancers are promoting their new way of life as a more advantageous one, sending out the message to other fellow bear dancers that the Sloth Bear deserves to be in the wild and not at the end of a chain.
 
All said and done, the atmosphere for animal protection and welfare is still fairly conducive, compared to some other countries such as China, where crusaders have to struggle a lot more and fight much harder to achieve similar results. However, hope is stubborn and even in the darkest times, there is always a flickering flame that transforms into a flash of light sooner or later. The dog and cat meat trade in China has long been condemned by the animal welfare community, on account of the horrible abuse and cruelty involved in this industry. But it is obvious now that more and more people in China are waking up to this cruelty on their dinner plates and they are acting against it. Last May, Chinese animal rights activists from the China Small Animal Protection Association, stopped a lorry driver passing through Beijing, carrying 500 dogs to slaughter. After a stand-off between the activists, driver and the police, the welfare group paid the driver an equivalent of $18,000 and bought the dogs off him. In all, 
300 people rallied to save the dogs, which were taken to compounds outside the city as well as several animal hospitals, for recovery and recuperation. In a similar story, 800 dogs were rescued by a Chinese animal protection group called the Qiming Centre, in October last year, in Zigong city, in the southwest Sichuan province. The dogs, scared and severely dehydrated, were headed to several restaurants in Guangxi province, when the group bought them off the trader for an equivalent of $13,000. In a recent incident this April, hundred of animal welfare activists acted on a tip off and stopped a truck on the Fuming-Kunming Highway. The vehicle was carrying 156 cages stuffed with 505 dogs of different breeds – many of which were kidnapped and some of which were injured or already dead. Although a price of an equivalent of $10,000 had to be paid, the dogs were freed and many of them were adopted and rehomed almost immediately. 
 
However, true humanity and courage emerges during a crisis. The earthquake and consequent tsunami that hit Japan last year was one of the worst disasters to hit the country and yet, people, governments and organizations from all over the world pitched in not only to help the ravaged human souls of Japan, but also the numerous pet and wild animals that were left homeless and helpless. Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS) is one such organization that mined the rubble and looked for lost and injured animals, day in and day out. Some applauded their efforts while others derided them as a waste of time when so much more could be done for humans. But what matters is numerous animal lives were saved, many animals were reunited with their owners and in short, a LOT of good was done.
 
So the bottom line is, even though we as a community of animal welfare activists and animal protectors may have to wade through depressing news, saddening stories, complacent governments and abusive societies, we still plod on. We do it for the animals. We do it because at the end of the day, even a single happy animal makes it worthwhile. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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