BENGALURU: While the pandemic lockdown, which was gradually lifted only days ago, entrapped citizens with its share of inconveniences, its troubling effects didn’t spare the animal kingdom either. As Bengaluru shut down, several hapless creatures injured or stuck in containment zones – including black kites, bonnet macaques, turtles, spectacled cobras, rat snakes, and peacocks – had to be rescued, and Prasanna Kumar A was their best hope!
Unflinchingly, Prasanna, honorary wildlife warden of Bengaluru Urban, BBMP Wildlife Rescue Team, and his team comprising drivers Nayaz or Manjunath and a volunteer closest to the call location, have rescued many animals from sealed-off areas in the city. These coronavirus-inflicted circumstances have been but a routine for Prasanna. Joining the BBMP Wildlife Rescue Team in 2009, he has committed over a decade of his life as a saviour of birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insects.
Hailing from a poor farmer’s family in Nelamangala who were once hunter-gatherers, Prasanna emerged at the forefront of wildlife rescue to protect the varied urban species of Bengaluru City. His tryst with animals began at a very young age, when he would observe veterinarians at an animal hospital tending and caring for wildlife. When he was 14, he was cleaning cages and maintaining the hospital premises. In 2008, he officially joined as an animal keeper, and for three years, he learnt everything about various endemic birds and animals.
“It was six years of observation at the veterinary hospital where I learnt everything, and my keen interest led me to rescue wild animals. My first case was in 2008, when I rescued a Russel’s viper. Since then, I have rescued snakes, turtles, civets, birds, dancing bears and leopards, among others,” says Prasanna.Every day, Prasanna, supported by a volunteer, rescues five-six animals, comprising two-three snakes, two birds and a mammal. And the lockdown was no different.
Since March 24, 200 wild animals have been rescued in the city. The team’s work has taken them well beyond the 198 wards under BBMP, to Kaggalipura, Tavarekere and Devanahalli.Birds getting stuck in eucalyptus, gulmohar and rain trees are pretty common, and if people inform the BBMP, they are rescued, treated and released. After documenting such incidents for a year, volunteers realised that the birds got stuck in trees mainly because of Chinese manja (abrasive thread used to fly kites). Finally, conservationists submitted a memorandum to the State Government for banning the use of manja, which resulted in a great reduction of bird deaths in the city.
In 2017, Prasanna was appointed honorary wildlife warden of Bengaluru Rural, and after two years, he became the warden for Bengaluru Urban. Recognition and laurels came his way, but Prasanna says it was the citizens’ recognition of his service and their awareness about saving wildlife that paved the way for the conservation of the city’s wildlife.
Presently, there is more public involvement, with every second ward having about one-two volunteers, who can easily reach any rescue spot within an hour. The BBMP team with 150 volunteers has won the National Sparrow Award in 2015 (at the Corporation level) for their commendable work.Despite growing jowar, groundnut, sunflower and vegetables on a 4.5-acre farm in Kengeri, Prasanna has devoted much of his time to his passion for wildlife rescue across different parts of the city, as well as rural areas. “‘Rescue, treatment and rehabilitation’ has been my motto since I started,” he says.
Thrills and risks of rescue
There have been some extraordinary experiences in Prasanna’s life. He was once called to rescue two jungle cats at a farm on Mysuru Road at midnight, and without any equipment he had to rescue them from a 15-foot deep sump. After their rescue, when they were being taken for release, one of them attacked Prasanna, however, it was contained