KODAGU – An eye opener to the untold tragedy
KODAGU – An eye opener to the untold tragedy
“We cannot stop natural disasters, but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have been lost if there was enough preparedness.”.
If there is anything that I learnt from the Chennai Floods 2015, it’s to be prepared and well-equipped with all the gears for rescue and relief work. The main key to disaster management is to be well equipped, mentally physically and materialistically. The four R’s - RESCUE, RELIEF, REHABILITATE AND RELEASE “
It was one of those days on Aug 2018. When I was busy attending calls and coordinating with another friend Sachin Stalin from Udaipur in regard to animal rescues and emergencies in Kerala and we had created a group #weshallovercomeKLfloods and added people from 14 districts in Kerala which consisted of NGOs, individual volunteers, veterinarian, NCC cadets and many more.
Around 2 am I got a distress call from someone who was speaking in Kannada to me about his animals stuck and his house gone. I quickly started speaking in my broken Kannada, Malayalam, mixed with Tamil, Hindi and English saying please share GPS location to my Whatsapp number and we shall try our best to locate animals and help.I never got any message or call after. Least did I know it was a call from Kodagu. Floods affected the areas but it was the landslides that left the people of Kodagu paralyzed. Apparently the landslides started from 12th August but the big ones, where an entire village was affected started from 14th.
A message came from a friend, Shreya Paropkari, who resides in Hyderabad, asking, “Checking if you know of any relief work in Coorg, for animals. A friend, whose village is underwater and has been evacuated, reached out. I believe the animals have been left behind since the people were air-lifted.”
Frantically I messaged a friend of mine, Gaurav Aiyappa, who resides in Kuwait but is from Gonikoppal (Kodagu) - “hey what’s the Coorg situation - is everything alright there? Your parents? Mr Tims and his pig Rosy? I have people looking for help for animals and relief materials there!
“He promptly responded ,“all good - but it’s the landslides that affected more than the floods. Lots of villages and areas gone and people evacuated and airlifted. My friends are now helping rescue animals.”
“He quickly sent details of all the people supplying relief materials, the camps details and a few recent images and videos. I immediately forwarded relief and camp details to Shreya. I spoke to Sachin and informed him of the situation in Kodagu and said I think Kerala is set and water is receding and many orgs have come in to help rescue animals and give supplies.
“But Kodagu, bhai, it’s something else. I can’t sit here doing nothing, I’m going there bhai, will know the ground situation and then see if any teams or rescuers need to come. But I got to go.”
“ I spoke with Suparna Ganguly of CUPA and her daughter Dr Suranjana Ganguly of The Woof Wagon and I was all set to leave for Kodagu and to arrange supplies materials for the animals and equipments for rescuers so they can rescue these stranded animals from these dangerous red alert landslide hit areas.
‘ Soon Mandy Vasudevan and Kannan Mehta stepped in to help gather supplies for Kodagu. I arrived in Bangalore and packed my Sedan car with supplies and medicines for these animals thanks to these two angels who stepped in to help. I reached the venue Bylakuppe ( Khushalnagar ) around 9:30 pm where CUPA(Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) volunteers ,Members of The Woof Wagon Pet Services, HSI India team ( Humane Society International India), PFA (People For Animals)Bangalore, ACT (Animal Care Trust)Mangalore , a few individual volunteers were already there and a meeting was going on about the volunteers field experience and what must be done next . I sat and observed until a few noticed me and waved out welcoming me to Kodagu Animal rescue - relief work.
“ Warm Interaction with Dr. Neeraj Periwal (Veterinarian HSI India), Rahul Sehgal (HSI India), Colonel Harsh Sharma (HSI India), Mamtha and Tauseef from ACT Mangalore, Seemanthini (Seema) The Woof Wagon Pet Services, Shilpa from CUPA, Dr. Suranjana from The Woof Wagon Pet Services, Govind from CUPA /WRRC (Wildlife Rescue Rehabilitation Centre), Dr. Silambarasan of PFA Bangalore, VDW Shilpa from Singapore ( A vegan and an ace rescuer in disaster Management) in regard to the condition of animals in the affected areas, how they are coping and how many rescued where they are placed etc.
“It was good to see old friends once again and I found my place of comfort in them as I always feel with like minds and good friends we can work together without any restrictions or pause. There was further discussion with Dr.Suranjana, Seema and Shilpa (CUPA). I was enlightened about two base camps.
“The BOTA Farms (large animal’s base camp) with 17 rescued cows, a goat and a Rooster and Small Animal Base Camp at WVS( World Veterinary Services) which had over 10 rescued dogs and one male monkey named Anju. What I had understood from the discussion with the energetic vibrant ladies was that we needed to make sure the supplies in camps , Logistics, inventory ,on field rescuers, on field feeders, camp volunteers , animal Tagging and case sheets were Co-Ordinated and organized.
“And I felt that since there was many on field rescuers/volunteers, there needed to be a Vet Assistant/ Animal Handler and a Co-Ordinator to organize and sort things at both camps, Tag each animals (whether owner (O), rescued(R) or local volunteers (LR) rescued), make sure the on field rescuers and feeders had all necessary equipments for rescuing and food supplies for animals, to ensure the number of volunteers needed on shift basis , and approaching local and various other individuals to support and help in Rescue ,relief, rehabilitate and release work. Suparna Ganguly being my friend and mentor, I felt it was my duty to be at base and help them sort and co-ordinate as I had a lot of experience in it through Chennai floods and various other incidents that had occurred in the past, I knew that I could be there to help them prepare and equip better and give my insights and share some of my experiences.
“ It’s all thanks to my other mentor and Guru Dawn Williams Sir of BCI that I learnt the basic discipline of rescues, disaster and shelter management. With the help of BCI (Blue Cross of India) who were raising funds for Kodagu a lot of supplies arrived at CUPA centre and Mr. Anjan Cariappa and Sathya Radhakrinan were coordinating that. While HSI India has collection points in Mysore and various parts in the south, supplies kept coming in through Donate Cart and transport vehicles. Dr. Shrikant Verma from HSI India arrived soon to streamline onsite rescues, location app so it’s easier to go back to area if needed and would be easy to release the animals back too, he ensured vets went along for on field rescues and if animals were in dire need of to be taken back to the base camp only then they were brought or else just onsite first aid and feeding were done. One Good thing about what the Animal rescuers and volunteers did was to cremate the carcasses of many dead animals to avoid the spread of many diseases. Animal welfare is directly connected human, environmental and community welfare too.
“Meanwhile the contacts of the Kodagu boys shared by Gaurav Aiyappa helped us in going deeper into the affected areas only to find out so many lives have been lost. Many of these local heroes Bopanna, Machu Machiah , Jagat Nanjappa , Sibi paul , Gagan Karumbiah , Mithun Kariappa ,the ultimate hero Vikas Achiah and many others. These guys and many others went all the way in from day one and helped rescue animals and people as much as they can.
Dr. Shantanu Kalambi The Woof Wagon Pet services and a Wildlife vet said since he ran a clinic in Mysore he got many stressed calls from owners who wanted to board their dogs and informed him of how tones of animals left behind as people had evacuated their areas to relief camps. This urged them to join hands and start the Coorg animal rescue helpline and CUPA joined in.
“Unlike Kerala the animals stranded without food and shelter and injured ones were in abundance. The pets and domestic are the ones that got affected the most as I earlier mentioned. An entire village gone, people livelihood lost, and animals helpless. While media and the entire nation gave all attention to Kerala - What they didn’t see was Kodagu was in a worst situation.
“Although topography being similar. Kodagu had Madikeri, Madapura, Munnangiri, Muduru, Hatti , Hebba and many more places were hit very badly. The floods were not the only thing it was the aftermath of it, the landslides which ruined acres and acres of lands and villages.
“The rescuers faced knee deep of muddy slush, leech bites and even the running high current water to cross to areas where it was affected. With roads blocked we had to take it by walks to these areas. What would take a 1 km hike or 10 min walk was now 4-5 kms and sometimes 5 hours of walk to reach areas. Animals and people lost their lives and livelihoodL. Many animals were tied or gone under the mud.
“The thought of them struggling for their life breaks our heart. Even with this the feeding team ensured to go to relief camps offering help for families to feed their animals and also rescue some in affected areas. Over 80 animals large and small were rescued. Some in a deserted house which was almost gone, some half under mud and some at the edge of the cliff or other side of the river.
“The woof wagon pet services, HSI India, PFA Bangalore, and ACT Bangalore, KSPCA (Kodaikanal Society for protection and care for animals), WVS and many more individual volunteers came into help with this catastrophe spearheaded by CUPA India who worked relentlessly to ensure help reached where it needed to go.
“When all organizations and animal welfare people join together it sure makes a difference. A special mention goes to the iron lady VDW Shilpa a Vegan like me J who flew all the way from Singapore to help with on field rescue missions. The aftermath broke our heart and watching these animals go through such terrible trauma wanted us to help them even more and by sending the needy ones for rehab and finding good homes, as many families didn’t want their pets back as they had no homes themselves.
“As days passed many animals were rescued many lost their lives. What drove VDW Shilpa and I to anger was the cow in the WVS small animal base camp owned by a resident there whose udder was touching the ground and her bull calf carrying serious infection.
“On enquiring we found that she has been mother already 8 times, the vets treated the calf and advised the owner not to milk her or get her pregnant again. My heart and mind is still in that place wondering how she’s doing and we have urged some local people to take action soon before it’s too late.
“While the large animals base camp BOTA farm given by Mr.Ashraf had many cows and bulls rescued and given care for. At the small animals base camp soon had over 50 animals including dogs , cats , monkey and civet cat. All were tagged with numbers and locations noted. Anju the 14 year old captive male monkey who was at the base camp was sent to PFA socializing centre to be with other monkeys.
“ The days spent with him was very interesting as it all started with him being all furious with me to being calm, taking the fruits together and having conversations. I even showed him videos of other monkeys and he would make funny noises and extend his hand to hold my hand.
“The day he left what shocked me and his owners (who decided to take him to the socializing centre as it was the best thing to do) was him holding my hand and hugging me. I felt a bond I felt a connection, he reminded me of Surya a monkey in Kodaikanal who was an injured rescue monkey and later released back.
“ My wish for this loving boy Anju would only be for him to be with his own kind and have a family and get all the love he deserves. There was Rowdy Rangappa , a small white female puppy who was rescued as she was stuck in half mud. She has the loveliest expressions and all she longed for was to get all the attention and love.When another big dog would squeal for attention from me she would furiously bark being a tiny thing to show I’m all hers.
“ My time at the base camp was just sitting and interacting with her, Teddy , Mousey, Grumpy, Jimmy ( a blind white pom who passed away in a few days) and many more... Yes we gave them all names and some were new and some old as owners mentioned their names to us… we wanted them to feel the love again and be in a place where they were comfortable and hopefully reunite with their families once they are settled or find loving families for them.
“ Then there was beauty Queen a male brindled boy, who would howl and squeal for attention and would never stop hugging u and licking you.OH! How can I forget Bruno who was actually abandoned by his owner and they left him at the WVS base camp. He came in with severe maggot infestation on his paw and ear infection too. His nails were grown and it looked like he was only a caged Lab who was never looked after.
“ When he arrived we did all the necessary first aid required and next day onwards he would willingly give his ears and leg for cleaning and dressing. Bruno loved listening to music while applying medications and treating him and he was clueless about his future for sure. Least did he know he was to go to the second chance centre of CUPA for adoption where he was going to be with a family that loved and cared for him immensely.
“ My mornings were filled with moos of the cows to woof of the dogs to meows of the cats. And evening sometimes Dr. Ganapa a local Dentist and friend would come with his wife and chill with me and share more insights on areas affected and animal welfare etc , or Dr Amulya of WVS another vegan friend J , Seema , Dr. Neeraj ,Dr.Suranjana and I would go for a nice coffee and vegan shake to the CCD in Bylakuppe. Sometimes with messages or calls from on field rescuers and Dr Shrikant saying ”bringing an injured dog with so and so infection , get the kennel ready and all the necessary first Aid.” And we stay back at the base camps late hours treating the injured canine or bovine.
“Dr Neeraj , Seema and I would sit and do case sheets , tagging etc while Satish an AWO from HSI India would clean the kennels the base camp. Hats off to him for doing such an amazing, disciplined and systematic job. There was Parvinder , Hemant other two AWO’s of HSI India who were on field for rescues along with Dr Shrikant , Dr Maxmular Chakma of KSPCA , Shilpa from Singapore, Savi ,Tauseef from ACT Mangalore. Asking Dr. Neeraj (an old friend who has worked for KSPCA – HSI ABC project in Kodaikanal) what he thought about the entire scenario all he said was HSI India is a very organized team for disaster management and they are trained well.
“He said ,“ when I arrived I didn’t realize the exact scene until I went on field and experienced it, so many animals have died , so many injured and so many starving. Proper plan and implementation will help get the surviving and thriving animals back to normalcy.”
“To be honest after my experience with HSI India especially in Kodaikanal with collaboration with my org KSPCA; I’d totally agree with what Dr. Neeraj said HSI India is one of the most organized NGO’s and with compassionate AWO’s like Satish, Parvinder, Hemant, vets like Dr. Neeraj, Dr Shrikant they are making a huge positive difference for Animal welfare in India. The day Suparna Ganguly of CUPA arrived in Kodagu , She brought in a local CUPA coordinator Rohan Appiah who was to be in Kodagu for next two months to help streamline , co-ordinate supplies ,inventories, feeding, rescues, volunteers , base camp animals and their adoptions. I felt it was almost time for me to go , with everything organized and set up KSPCA and moreover myself as an individual helped in whatever way I can and handover the responsibilities to Rohan to handle. And many more organizations like Paws Mumbai were to arrive soon. We all probably never had proper meals or proper sleep in those 10 days and when we did it was one miraculous day in Potala Kitchen a local Tibetan Restaurant, where they showered us with even more love by giving us food on the house with a small cute note which said” Dear Kind people, your bill is just paid by God. Thank you for being there for voiceless animal. Love from animal loverJ”
“I left with a bag of mixed emotions making new friends which include my canine and feline ones too and parting from old friends, wondering if they all will be fine and if we would ever cross paths again.
This trip has been the most physically and emotionally draining trip with the long drive from Kodaikanal to Kodagu and back and getting way too attached to all these beautiful souls. Many were loved and many were lost.
“Once again humans aren't the only ones who are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Floods in Karnataka; it is the animals which are finding it far more difficult to get back to normalcy. The situation in Kodagu in Karnataka and nearby areas unfortunately took a back seat with all the concentration and attention going to Kerala. More than the Floods, it is the aftermath and the consequential landslides which wrecked acres of land killing 100's of animals. I just hope and wish they all could be saved. And I just hope and wish a miracle happens.
“VDW Shilpa said, “Animals stuck in knee length mud, getting washed away, animals clinging onto their lives with the hope that someone will rescue them and getting swallowed by the diabolic are just a few real life scenes that we all had to digest during the course of the rescue and rehab mission. It was heart wrenching to see these animals clinging onto their lives only to realize that it was all in vain. “
“ If you really got the right people and you’ve got them working together as a team; whether it’s in business , whether it’s in science , whether it’s in politics , you can make a huge difference . And guess what ! This was all about animal welfare and animal rescues ... the disaster and nature’s fury brought us together ... we joined hands and we made a difference and we are still making a difference ...”
The unity in animal welfare consisted of Team CUPA : Suparna Ganguly , Rajani Badami , Shilpa Mahbubani ,Rohan Appiah , Govind , Upendra , Shivu and many more. Team The Woof Wagon Pet Services:Dr Shantanu Kalambi, Dr Suranjana Ganguly and Seemanthini. Team HSI India : Rahul Sehgal , Col. Harsh Sharma, Dr Neeraj Periwal , Dr Shrikant Verma , Yeshwanth, Satish , Parvinder and Hemant.Team PFA Bangalore : Dr Silambarasan ( Simba)Team ACT Mangalore : Mamta , Savi , Tauseef and Shamith . Team KSPCA: Dr Maxmular Chakma and Janani Krishnamurthy and of course not to forget the Lady who spearheaded the on field rescue team VDW Shilpa from Singapore J
“It was the wrath of the nature that brought us together and we all sure do need the support and help from all possible sectors to ensure that the lives of these beautiful gifts of nature who's natural habitat has been destroyed are brought back to normalcy at the earliest especially help CUPA India who spearheaded the entire operation. Although with the looks of it and the conditions; it would take months and even a year for things to get back to normal. As I sit in my room to finish writing my experience in Kodagu, I heard good news of many of those adorable cuties already in their loving new homes.
“Every life Matters"
Regards, Janani Krishnamurthy
(AveiwfromthehillbillyJ ) KSPCA
(PIC Courtesy : Seemanthini , Dr Neeraj Periwal ,Dr Shrikant , Gaurav Aiyappa ,Dr Silambarasan)
CUPA INDIA - www.cupabangalore.org/ HSI INDIA - www.hsi.org/world/india/
KSPCA – www.kspca.in ACT MANGALORE - www.actmangalore.org
KSPCA – www.kspca.in ACT MANGALORE - www.actmangalore.org
PFA BANGALORE - www.peopleforanimalsbangalore.org/ WVS INDIA – www.wvsindia.org/