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PAWS this month...

July-August 2006 Newsletter

Graphic of newspapers; Size=130 pixels wide

They root for animals, so route your money to them  :-)

Never in the history of MBT has such a large gathering ever assembled at such a small place (Well, actually, it has, but hey, I am allowed the writer's licence for a tiny bit of exaggeration, ain't I?)

Well, what happened was this: over a period of two days, we, the People for Animal Welfare Service (PAWS), a group of well-meaning working professionals, organised stalls for (animal) welfare organisations like the WWF (no, that's NOT the World Wrestling Federation, it's rather the World Wildl Fund), BWC (short for Beauty Without Cruelty) to display and sell their wares. These organisations, through various means, mobilise funds and do their bit to ensure that the oft-forgotten and neglected denizens of our planet - animals, the wild ones (no, we're not talking about the two-legged variety here!) and the not-so-wild, down to the little ones like our own friendly neighbourhood dogs - live a good life too.

In order to make this event a success, the indefatigable soldiers of animal welfare, a.k.a. PAWS members, came up with attention-grabbing posters and message-boards at various "strategic" locations all over the MBT office. These posters provided teaser-previews of what visitors could expect at the stalls. And if the number of visitors was any indication, then the posters and boards were a huge success.

Beauty Without Cruelty focusses on spreading the message of not killing animals for commercial use. In their own words, they would like to "Introduce people to other options. Give non-leather a chance." Most of us tend to believe that substitutes for leather aren't as good as leather itself. BWC's mission is to prove such notions wrong. The number of products that they had on display was really a revelation for most visitors, including the PAWS members themselves. The products ran the whole gamut from wallets (for men and women) to mobile covers, with everything in between (including office stationery!). And if you thought the price would be a huge deterrent, well, you are in for a pleasant surprise as well!! With all these, would a campaign for vegetarianism be far behind? No way! There were posters, sign-boards and books that advocated "A Vegetarian Lifestyle" for all of us. And, thanks to organisations like BWC, this isn't limited to veggie food habits alone!

It was very satisfying personally for us PAWS members to hear the warm words of praise from BWC - they had received a huge number of orders from the zealous MBT-ans, since the stock that they had brought with them had sold out completely!! Now, that's what we would call a job well done, is it not?

Katraj Visit 

All  good  things come to an end - or so it is believed. But this is  one  thing  that should probably never end. I am referring to the  magnificent  work  done  by  a bunch of committed people and occasional volunteers at Uttara's Ark, situated in Katraj, housed in  the  same  compound as the Rajiv Gandhi Zoo (erstwhile Katraj Zoo).

What  had  started out as a seedling idea was slowly taking shape as  we, the members of PAWS (People for Animal Welfare Services), hit  the  road on our bikes last Sunday and wended our way to the zoo,  to  meet  one  Dr.Neelam  Khere, who is running the show at Katraj.  We  got  down to business and found our way to the man's office.  One  of  the  volunteers  told us that since meeting him would  take  some  time, she would show us around Uttara's Ark so
that we could get an idea about the place. It sounded like a good idea and off we went.

Uttara's  Ark is a shelter for rescued wild animals. Rescued from what,  you  ask?  From  unsuitable  and cramped cages, from cruel owners   and  /  or  trainers,  and  from  labs  that  are  still experimenting  on them, much against the law. Many of the animals are  housed  here  temporarily,  and are released back into their original  habitats  once  they're restored to their normal health
and  fitness.  But  some of them have undergone a great amount of physical  /  mental  trauma  prior to their rescue, and these are simply  retained  at this place, where they're taken care of with loving  kindness  and  affection. There's yet another category of animals  and  birds:  those  that have never seen the wild, i.e., those  that  have  been  born and bred in captivity. These get to
spend  their  entire lives here since they are simply not capable of fending for themselves in the wild.

We  saw  parakeets  (these  are  commonly  mistaken for parrots), eagles, a couple of hyenas (and a cub), a few bears, a handful of leopards (some cubs), lots of monkeys and many, many more animals and  birds.  One  of them, an exotic bird called Toca Tutan, is a resident of the South American continent, but it was a mystery to us  how  she  ended up here. She's got a biggish beak, her plumes are  of  brilliant, bright colours and she sure turns many necks! We  asked  our  volunteer  friend  and she mentioned that she was handed  over  to  them by an ashram where her care-taker had died and  she  simply  refused  to eat when anybody else tried to feed her.  These  guys, however, were much too smart for her, and they shrewdly  placed a mirror in the bird-cage which seemed to do the trick!

Just for the record, we even saw a leopard which was allegedly of the  man-eater  variety. Since she did not seem very happy to see us and expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms, we beat a hasty retreat and left her alone!

At last, Dr. Neelam Khere found some time to talk to us (he was quite busy that day). He explained to us that this sanctuary (for the wild animals only) tended to nearly a thousand animals every year  (!!)  And indicated that a tremendous amount of money was spent every year for the purpose. We told him that, to start off with, we would help in getting their good work known to the world
by putting up a web-site and that we would contribute our might by way of volunteering for work over the weekends. He reminded us that more than numbers, he was keen on commitment to the purpose.

With our main purpose achieved, we decided to take a further look around the snake park. Mr. Shirke, the manager, kindly arranged for the same volunteer to show us the snakes, up close. When Devna, the volunteer in question, offered to let us hold the snakes, a couple of us readily agreed, and yet another two were not really sure. Believe me, folks, the snakes are not slimy to touch, contrary to the popular notion. The sliminess, we learned, was a direct consequence of the snakes' preference to remain in /under water  (snakes are cold-blooded and can't alter their body temperature so they cool off in the water). We touched and held a "dry" snake, and found that it was quite soft though a bit scaly. It was not  repulsive  at  all,  and  I, for one, wouldn't mind holding  one  in  my  hands again, as long as it's not poisonous. Thanks, am not confident of handling a poisonous one at all!!

Talking  of poison, we saw one of the most poisonous of them all, The  King  as  Som likes to call it: the King Cobra. I remembered reading  that  King  Cobras  are  generally  very  long, but that knowledge  didn't  really  prepare  me  for what I saw. Imagine a nearly  ten-foot long bundle of deadly venom, long enough for the raised  hood to be nearly 2 feet up from the ground, and I'm sure you'll  find  a  chill  going down your spine! We found this King slithering  with  ease around the enclosure with amazing speed. I mean,  we  all  know how those pythons move - slow and lethargic. But  slow is definitely not the word to when describing the King! I  told  myself  that  I wouldn't venture anywhere near this one,
PAWS or otherwise!

After  this, Devna referred us to another young chappie, Hiten by name,  and  asked  him  to  show  us around the zoo. He did for a while,  but  then  we realized we were way too hungry to complete the trip without further nourishment. So, we quickly made our way to  the nearest refreshment stall and stuffed ourselves with what we  could  lay our hands on - which wasn't much actually. Anyway, the  lad  excused  himself  and we continued the rest of the trip
around the zoo, sauntering in a leisurely manner and admiring the animals in their spacious enclosures.

Before  long,  we  found  that  we were famished (it was around 4 p.m.,  and  we had started out in the morning around 11 a.m.) and decided  to  get  back  to  our  homes after a meal. We all had a fabulous  meal  (thank  you  Somnath) at Pizza Hut, where we also watched  (on  TV  of course) Viru Bhai completing a scintillating double-century.  We  left  with good memories of the day and even
more  enthusiasm  about  the  work we were going to commence. The ground-work was getting done and we were keen to get on with it.




"Cruelty to animals is not only a foolish act but also an insult towards God."    - Sir Issac Newton