Alpana Bhartia, founder trustee of ‘People for Animals’, talks to G20 about the importance of the plans of rescue and rehabilitation of animals. Excerpts:
Q. Would you like to share with our readers the journey you have had so far?
A. I once read about a school boy losing his life because of a pet snake bite. I realised these kids were buying snakes from snake charmers and keeping them in sacks and socks and satchels, little knowing of the dangers or of the harm caused to both man and animal. I started going to schools and giving talks why we should not keep snakes as pets nor entertain snake charmers. Some students started handing over their snakes to me and thus we started helping wildlife. We got boxes of confiscated baby parakeets handed over to us by the Forest Department. The Bangalore International Airport gave us a call to rescue a snake being smuggled out of the country in a suitcase. The public started calling us for rescues. This led us to create the Wildlife Hospital as it was the need of the hour. I would take lots of photos and once I made a small handwritten project album and took it with me to London. I visited the Born Free Foundation and Virginia Mackenna came down to Bangalore to come and see “this astonishing place where there is heart”. Her words and visit really inspired me to take it further and stronger and strive to be a center of excellence.
Q. Tell us something about the rescue and rehabilitation of animals?
A. We have rescued and treated more than 25,000 wild animals across 200 species. Birds suffer fractures when they fly into glass windows as they reflect the sky. Snakes that get injured by construction tools need to be rescued. Slender lorises that get electrocuted or deer that enter the city and get attacked by dogs need to be rescued and treated. We use multiple systems to help rehabilitate these animals.
Q. You started this non-profit organisation in 1996; today you are running the largest animal welfare organisation in the country. How have you managed to do this?
A. Volunteers are the mainstay of animal welfare organisations. Maneka Gandhi has also been instrumental in motivating many such people across the country to speak up for animals and take action. Bangalore PFA goes across the country to help out in wildlife-related situations. We provided relief camps to animals during floods in Coorg. Sometimes I convince my friends and family to help out.
In the year 2019, we visited more than 250 schools and colleges. We imparted environmental education with simple tips and examples of the role of the individual student. We help strengthen the community by empowering its members to look after its flora and fauna.
Q. Tell us something about your achievements.
A. Awareness, and education is a huge part of our ethos. From the beginning, we have held camps and workshops around the city to highlight to the public what we can do at an individual level. I would go to schools and approach the Principal for an opportunity to address the students to create awareness of why wild animals should not be used in circuses. PFA also campaigned against the illegal hunting and sacrifice of wild animals in 56 villages around Bangalore. We would go with Volunteers and the staff of the State Police and Forest Departments and talk to the village people about why this will negatively impact the climate and agriculture. We spoke to the village priest and panchayat and elders. We would go to the homes and speak to the women. We visited schools and spoke to the staff and students. Eventually, it was the children who were able to convince their fathers not to hunt. It took many years of repeat visits to bring this to fruition.