THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A single-storey house was on the verge of being devoured by floodwater. Three cows in the compound raised their heads from the muddy water and cried relentlessly for help. A few feet away, a man in his late 80s sat helplessly on higher ground, cursing the rising water but adamant not to part with his domestic animals.
These were some of the heart-wrenching scenes that animal rescuers on a country boat saw at villages near Chengannur last year. Days after the deluge, rescuers deployed by Save Animals Kerala (SAK) -- an umbrella organisation of various animal welfare groups -- swung into action. Though his family members were evacuated, the octogenarian said he would not budge till his cows -- his only source of livelihood -- were also rescued. Being a frail man, he could not do much to save the cows on his own.
“After helping the cows reach higher ground, we fed them. We also provided biscuits and water to the elderly man who had also not eaten for the past three days. With his cows now safe, he finally agreed to go to a relief camp till the floodwater receded,” said Karthik Gopalakrishnan who led the rescue operation. The SAK team was able to rescue around 50 heads of cattle stranded in the terrace of various houses in Chengannur alone.
Hundreds of animals were stranded during the flood as the first phase of rescue focused only on saving people. It was days later that the full face of the tragedy unfolded. Hundreds of animals perished in the flood as owners did not let them loose while being rescued to safety. “Some flood victims showed the wisdom to untie their pets and domestic animals. But the shortage of provisions to feed them and a place to temporarily rehabilitate them was a big issue for the people housed in relief camps,” said Karthik.
SAK volunteers adopted a three-pronged approach to achieve their mission. Volunteers based in Thiruvananthapuram attended to distress calls from various parts of the state and also collected food and essentials. A logistics group supported the transportation of the goods to various parts of the state. And most importantly, a rescue group carried out the most arduous task of saving animals from the jaws of death. Many domestic animals were reunited with their owners.
State Control Room: 0471-2732151
The state Animal Husbandry Department said it has put in a mechanism by which District Veterinary Centres will act as control rooms during eventualities. “District veterinary centres will coordinate animal rescue and relief during natural calamities. These centres will be coordinated and monitored by a state control room functioning in the capital,” Dr MK Prasad said.