SIMPLE GUIDELINES FOR RESCUING WILDLIFE
By Ar. Shakti Nanda
Wildlife rescue is a noble cause. Rescuers are c o n s i d e r e d heroes by many, because they take considerable risk to save an animal or bird in a world where humans are not willing to help others. Only few have the courage, skills, brains, sensibility, ability and audacity to react to the demand of the situations and needs of a rescue operation. Some may try it out of enthusiasm without evaluating the amount of risk, skill or ability involved; while some who evaluate the risks get so overwhelmed by the intricacies that they prefer to remain spectators. Unlike the trained animal rescue teams in developed countries, in India, it is often a case of the right intention without actually having the skill and knowhow. Hence this article is an effort to spread the awareness about the factors to be considered, before attempting any rescue operation.
1. Identification of species:
You must first ascertain what kind of animal, bird, reptile or insect you are dealing with. If possible, try to identify the schedule of Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972, that it falls under. Instead of rushing in, calmly evaluate the situation. You should have the skills or you should seek help from experts with proven credentials. Don’t get carried away by words of advice coming from spectators, quacks & ‘google experts’. Enthusiasm & negligence could prove fatal for you or the animal or even the onlookers, if you are not sure about things its better to wait for the right people to come. If the rescue operation is from an illegal animal keeper or trader, then you must know if the concerned species is a scheduled one as per WPA 1972 or not. Please note domestic animals and exotic species don’t come under WPA 1972 Schedule.
2. Inform the Forest Department (FD):
As per the WPA1972, only the FD staff or specially trained & authorized volunteers of NGOs can carry out direct rescue operations. Individuals cannot handle any wildlife species without informing the FD. If the animal dies during rescue, you could be in for some legal trouble! Once you are in a position to identify the species id, you can call up the local Range Officer or Chief Wildlife Warden’s office or Authorized NGOs/ Volunteers for help & inform them in detail about the situation, location and surrounding. In caseyou fail to get their numbers then contact the PCR van or the nearest police station to inform the FD. Don’t touch the animal or bird unless you get verbal or written clearance to do so from the FD staff, no matter how big an expert team you have with you. In case of an emergency, the FD will definitely let you handle the situation if they feel you can be of help.
3 .Crowd Management:
Avoid crowd gathering and try to keep everyone away from the animal; the animal or bird may injure itself further due to nervousness or anxiety or due to presence of people in close proximity. It may attack or try to escape and this may lead to more damage.
4. Planning & Evaluation:
Quickly prepare an action plan and discuss with forest officials or your team about the same for carrying out the rescue. Be prepared with a Plan B keeping in mind the impact on the animal, surrounding or any human habitat around. Each and every rescue effort should be planned according to the surrounding and situational demands. You must keep in mind that each species has an independent ethology and they behave very differently based on the environment and habitat.
Allow the animal or bird to escape in a safe way if it is in good, healthy condition. But you must do some analysis to make sure if the animal or birds belong to the surrounding habitat and can survive in it without venturing again into human habitat or other wild habitats nearby. In case of rescuing animals or birds from illegal traders or poachers or just keepers, a suitable translocation may be suggested to the FD after consulting their officers and experts. The animals or birds seized can’t be released immediately without a study of the individual ethology of the animal or bird. Releasing an animal in the wrong habitat can lead to many complex issues like territorial conflicts, ecological imbalance and complete or partial habitat change or loss with passage of time. Please note, illegal trading is a part of organized wildlife crime and your part in this kind of rescue operations is only limited to collection and passing on the information to the FD. You are not allowed to take any direct action since it could put your and others life at risk.
In case the animal or bird or reptile is injured and not in a condition to escape on its own then help the FD staff to capture the animal carefully and transfer it to the nearest authorized vet center for quarantined care. Nobody is allowed to capture or keep a scheduled species unless authorized by the FD. In case of an emergency and in the absence of any FD staff, they may allow you to help them. Once again, do not take decisions on your own as it can put you behind bars for upto seven years along with a hefty fine since wildlife offenses are non-bailable. If the FD officials ask you to get veterinary help before they can reach the site don’t mention your name as the owner while filling up any form at the vet since all scheduled wild animals and birds are government property. Mention the local range officer’s name instead (after consulting him). Unless & until you have the ownership certificate of anyparticular animal/bird issued by the Chief Wildlife Warden it belongs to the Government.
7. Captivity Rights:
Under no circumstances can a rescued animal be kept captive in any private premises, the rescued animals must be handed over to the FD or authorized people of the FD, immediately after rescue. Don’t try to capture or keep or release or treat the rescued animal or bird on your own. You will be held responsible for any mishap to the animal or others
8. Heroism & Publicity:
Photographing or exhibiting a rescued animal with an intention to show your heroism or for publicity can be interpreted as animal cruelty. You may take pictures for records and or documentation purposes but not for showing off, your act of heroism.
No one has the right to do any kind of research or experiment on any scheduled or domestic species without the prior written permission from the concerned authorities. Doing so may be considered as cruelty to animal and you can be booked under the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960’ .
10. Lack of quick response:
While the FD lacks resources for a rescue and may be caught up in dealing with greater issues like smuggling of wood, deforestation, afforestation, forest fires, hunting etc repeated reminders may be needed to emphasize the need for a quick rescue. You need to be patient and appreciate the fact that government departments are required to followsystems and paper work which may be difficult for a common man to relate to.
Rescue is not something that can only be done directly. There are many indirect ways. Creating public awareness about wildlife and educating the common man can be of great help.
For example if a person doesn’tknow whom to call for help when he or she finds a snake in the house then he or she would definitely try to kill it, hence sufficient awareness should be created about snakes and rescuers who deal with snakes. Similarly, very less people know that caging Indian birds or animals is illegal and they may face serious consequences. Hence, mass awareness programs targeting people, especially school children, can be organized.
Every rescue effort should be thoroughly documented irrespective of its failure or success and must be submitted to the FD since it helps build a case study for future rescue efforts.
The above article is based on my personal opinion and concerned departments and authorities must be taken in to confidence before any attempt for a direct rescue is made. It is just an attempt to spread the awareness.