Alleppey, 27 August, 2018 : Kerala has been ravaged by devastating floods in the last two weeks. In what is being called Kerala’s worst flood in nearly a century, more than 373 people have lost their lives. Likewise, a number of animals have been affected by the floods.
A three-member team from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)-Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) was deployed to Kerala to rescue and provide relief to animals displaced due to the floods. Through strategic collaborations, the team is also supporting three more NGO’s Save animals Kerala (SAK) from Thiruvananthapuram, ResQ (from Pune) and Organization for Wildlife Studies (OWL’s) from Mahad in Maharashtra. Through these partnerships, help is still being extended to all affected animals: livestock, companion as well wildlife.
The core team not only carried provisions and emergency medicines for animals in distress but was also equipped with tactical rescue gear, aerial surveillance quadcopters, inflatable raft, safety jackets and snake rescue tools. The team also met key governmental stakeholders like the forest department, civil administration police and covered the key affected areas of Kochi, Alleppey, Thiruvalla, Chenganur, Aranmula, Ranny, etc. While the response work in Kochi, Thiruvalla and Chenganur was largely directed to assist the local forest department in rescuing snakes that were taking shelter in houses to escape from floods, in the other areas the team assisted the local organizations for in situ subsidizing of dogs, cats and cattle that were left abandoned by people. The team also used aerial surveillance through quadcopters to assess the few affected areas and document the damages caused by the floods.
A large number of snakes have been displaced due to the floods and have moved into human habitations. The team is responding directly to calls for help, as well as coordinating and supporting other NGOs. “It is an excellent coordinated effort of the IFAW-WTI ERN team in the state. The team managed to connect a large number of rescuers across the state and provided them with the equipment to manage snakes safely. They are working with the state forest department, district administration and police to ensure effectiveness in the field”, said Jose Louies, Head, Enforcement and Law, WTI.
IFAW-WTI’s team is coordinating the combined efforts of all the individuals and organizations involved in cases of snake rescues reported from Ernakulam, Chalakudy, Allepey, Kottanad, etc. under the guidance of the forest department. “Our focus on the ground was to systematize the rescue and rehabilitation of both wild and companion animals. It’s important to rescue people from coming in conflict with wild animals, while at the same time ensuring the animals that the communities value (dogs, cats, livestock and even pet birds) are also saved”, said Abhishek Narayanan, Head, Wild Rescue, who led the team from IFAW-WTI for the emergency response in Kerala. Over the last one weeks, the ERN teams attended to over 20 cases of snake rescues 3 cases of birds (kites) and supported over 300 cattle (with feed and supplements), around 100 dogs, over 30 cats and kittens and other livestock like chicken, goats, pigs etc.
The Emergency Relief Network is a project under the Wild Rescue Big Idea of WTI which envisages formation and operation of a network of veterinarians, animal rescuers and rehabilitators that can be called upon to attend to animal emergencies especially during natural disasters in India. Under the project till date IFAW-WTI ERN teams have attended to floods in Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, cyclones in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana; provided emergency relief to olive ridley hatchlings in Odisha and constituted teams to respond to birds affected during the kite festival in Gujarat and Rajasthan apart from other responses.