I am the Luckiest Person February 2013

If you did my job you would know that I am the luckiest person in the whole of India! Admittedly there are all too many devastating and sole destroying things that breaks ones heart but the highs are high and the certain knowledge that one is helping some of the most intelligent creatures in the world keeps one battling on. The long hours day and night, never getting a day off and the fact that it costs my wife and I almost a lakh a month just to cover the cost of what we do is all irrelevant when one holds a little creature in your arms knowing you have saved its life.

Sadly the wonderful creatures I am talking about suffer horrendously at the hands of man and even more shocking is that some of the worst suffering is inflicted by the very people who are meant to be there to protect them. Much of this suffering is due to ignorance but a lot of it is due to callous indifference. The creatures I am talking about are the Primates of India.

Primates in Goa are without doubt the luckiest in India because we have people in the Forestry Department who really care. Thanks to them I run a Temporary Holding Facility for monkeys. An example of their concern is when we were woken at 1.30am by a Forest Range Officer with a baby Langur monkey who’s mother had been killed on the road. He had driven a considerable distance from South Goa to North Goa at that time of night just to get this little baby to us. When asked why he had taken so much trouble he replied that everyone knew that we were the only people that could give the little creature the care it needed. We took this as a huge compliment and a clear indication of the genuine concern of many of the Forest Officers.

Research in America has shown that orphaned baby Primates need 24 hour care for the first year of their lives if they are not to suffer lifelong mental trauma. All our babies get just that! They sleep in our beds with us and get bottle fed every two hours day and night, just like a human baby would. Once they are 3 months old the feeds are reduced to every 3 hours. What few people realise is that these babies when first rescued wake up as a result of nightmares and it takes quite some time to settle the poor little creatures back to sleep. This can go on for as long as 5 weeks. Baby Langurs suffer more than Macaques when orphaned and we have had them plaintively calling for their mothers for up to a month. Thankfully Macaques are normally over the worst of the trauma in about a week.

Regretfully most animal welfare societies and to my knowledge all the Forestry Departments, apart from Goa, simply dump these babies in a cage or a box with no thought to the dreadful trauma they are living through. What is more most have no idea how to bottle feed a baby monkey or what milk to use and if that is not bad enough they are then abandoned from the time the centre closes until the next morning! No feeds, no comfort and very little concern, it is no wonder most of these poor creatures die or suffer the rest of their lives from mental disorders. What is worst still is that most of the few monkeys that survive this living hell then get dumped in the wild when they are considered old enough. No rehabilitation, just dumped to die a slow lingering death of starvation because they do not know how to fend for themselves or they are simply killed by the resident monkeys.

Another very sad aspect is that people simply do not understand the vital importance of environmental enrichment. We are talking about highly intelligent creatures that are just like human children that need constant stimulation to make their brains develop and keep them healthy. You can give them the best food in the world but without mental stimulation they will become mentally sick and can die from self mutilation. There is one clear way of telling if a monkey is happy, it plays! All our monkeys play, even those rescued from extreme cruelty.

Environmental enrichment is a constant concern to us and their pens are designed so that branches and toys can be put in and removed in a matter of minutes. Everyday all our monkeys get new things to play with because just like children they get bored very quickly. All our Macaques have their own swimming pools, they love hammocks and they love things that can be hung up that swing. Their favourite are fresh branches with leaves which they get at least twice a week but they also love plastic baby toys that can amuse them for hours. There is a sad attitude that one should not use plastic or anything unnatural with monkeys which we consider absurd. The monkeys are living in a false environment and the only thing that should matter is what makes them enjoy life.

All our monkeys need to have a lifetime care facility and we are hopeful that the Goa Government may help us by providing land. If this becomes available we are committed to donating our own property in Goa to the Primate Trust India so we can build a world class wildlife rescue centre.

We feel very strongly that the laws of India need to be reviewed as far as rescued wildlife is concerned. To most if not all Forestry Departments injured and orphaned animals are a liability they are not equipped to cope with. They do not have the staff or the facilities to look after them. At present rescue wildlife centres comes under the Central Zoo Authority as well as the Forestry Department. We consider all wildlife rescue centres should without doubt come under the Animal Welfare Board of India and that the present policy of closing lifetime care facilities run by animal welfare societies is wrong in the extreme. The only people that are going to look after injured wildlife and orphaned animals with true dedication are the animal welfare organisations and my one plea to the Government is that this issue is addressed as a matter of urgency and that a Wildlife Rescue Centre should be established in every state run by the most suitable animal rescue society.

However the Government has to be congratulated on its work to control primate populations that are out of control such as in Delhi and Jaipur. Ground breaking work has been carried out in Shimla on the mass sterilisation of monkeys in a humane way. This has largely been carried out Dr. Sandeep Rattan and the system they have developed is nothing short of brilliant. They can sterilise a female monkey in under 2 minutes using laproscopic key hole surgery! I have seen it myself and it is amazing.

The Indian Government have now established 8 of these centres and I understand they plan to open them where ever there is a monkey overpopulation problem. This is a fantastic leap forward in the humane control of monkeys, I just wish I could congratulate other Governments around the world for being so humane and forward thinking!

I also finally wish to congratulate the Indian Government in their foresight for appointing Dr. R.M.Kharb Maj Gen (retd.)AVSM Kharb as Chairman of AWBI. There can be few people in India that could inspire the animal welfare movement more. This is complimented by the appointment of Dr Chinny Krishna as Vice Chairman. He is one of the great heroes of the animal welfare movement in India and few people across the world could have made a greater contribution to the cause than Chinny. The Animal Welfare Board of India is a shining example of the concern and compassion that the Founder of the Nation, Mahatma Ghandi, always demonstrated and a reason for the Indian Government to feel proud.

Thankfully the Indian Government have over the last few years set up an amazing project which is the only humane way of reducing much of this suffering.


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