Saturday, August 13, 2005

Rains Affect Rescue Centre

At the animal orphanage at Katraj in Pune, one of the best shelters I have seen - we made friends with some wonderful leopard cubs there, and a wild boar named Antya - heavy rains have been giving them a tough time. We often think that birds don't suffer in the rains because they can simply fly off to a dry place, but here is a report about thirty crows that were electrocuted, nests that were destroyed, adn owls whose wings were so thoroughly drenched that they could not fly.

As for the 300 rescued animals at the shelter, they were kept dry with borrowed sheets, newspapers and blankets. The shelter is run by the Indian Herpetological Society. More about it later, but right now I'm jsut glad the animals are fine.

"When meat is not murder"

is the title of this interesting Guardian report about a technique to grow fresh meat from animal cells in the laboratory, without any animal being killed for the purpose:
Scientists have adapted the cutting-edge medical technique of tissue engineering, where individual cells are multiplied into whole tissues, and applied them to food production.
I wouldn't eat it anyway, even if it came on a petri dish, but right now it's still one of those wait-and-see proposals. So, we'll wait and see.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


A public works supervisor in Jourdanton, Texas reportedly ordered six stray dogs drowned in the sewer plant instead of being properly euthanised. The dogs were taken to the sewer plant and dropped into the water. Why did they do it? Because the veterinarian, who usually administers lethal injections to stray animals, was on vacation. How did the city council find out? A child saw the act and told his mother, who made a complaint. The supervisor has now been reprimanded and asked to attend classes with animal control officers.

That one child had more sense than the man who ordered the act, and all those who did it.

Animal Abuse by Children... bad enough. It can also be an early warning that such children will grow up to commit acts of extreme violence to humans later in life, says a Peta research study, according to this Guardian report:
Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane killer, enjoyed shooting animals and squashing rabbits' heads beneath car wheels as a youth. Robert Thompson, who was 10 years old when he and John Venables killed two-year-old Jamie Bulger, pulled the heads off live birds....

Peta's research found that some children in abusive homes copy the abusers' behaviour. "Children in violent homes are characterised by frequently participating in pecking-order battering, in which they maim or kill an animal. Domestic violence is the most common background for childhood cruelty to animals."
I'm not surprised.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baby's Best Friend

This pet Pom rescued his family's baby when their house collapses in a landslide. Says the child's mother: "Sonu is a member of our family and we treat him like our child. But how do I thank him and tell him I’m so very, very proud of him!"

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cowboys turn, well, Indian

So you have cows on the road. So they're blocking traffic. So instead of setting up a proper animal welfare organisation that might actually prevent Delhi's holy cows from corrupting their intestines with plastic bags and the like, and that might look after stray cattle, what do you do? You put a bounty on their heads and exhort the general citizenry to go catch cows.
No, seriously. This really happened, courtesy a court order that sounds like arrant b..., er, cow-manufactured natural products. It's not working very well, though:

With the prospect of instant cash fading with each passing day, the public's enthusiasm to capture and hand over stray cattle to the civic authorities in the capital is waning.
The Delhi High Court Thursday directed MCD to reward anyone who captured the stray animals and deduct the reward amount from the salary of veterinary officers posted in its 12 zones.
In the wake of the court ruling, many an adventurous person took on the cowboy role in the city, herding the stubborn animals towards a cattle pound on bikes, cars and even military trucks.

And the end result of this? Terrified animals. Unhappy veterinary officers. Unpaid cowboys. And, well, more paperwork. Nice going, gentlemen.

Dedicated to Uma..

..who held the fort while I was away. My apologies for such a long absence; spent eight days in Sri Lanka and the next eight back in Delhi with a hacking cough and high fever, which reminds me: if you're ever in Colombo, cough or no cough, take that walk down the seafront. It's gorgeous.
One of the things I did in Sri Lanka was visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. Pinnawela's pretty well known; it hosts about 70 rescued elephants at this point, and has never had less than 50 pachyderms since 1997.
I had "seen" elephants in the way most urban people do. Cruelly, at the circus, where these gentle creatures looked so miserable sitting on painted wooden tubs. Penned up in zoos, which feels all wrong for animals that live in large herds and are used to acres of roaming space. Or making waves in Delhi's already-chaotic traffic as they marched down the road, on their way to a marriage procession.
The thing is, you never really LOOK at elephants; you look at their size, their bulk, sometimes at the decorations their mahouts have caparisoned them with.
If you look at an elephant closely, this is what you see. The skin is hard, wrinkled, often dusty, unless they're bathing, in which case it transmutes into a gleaming black shell. Their mouths are very large, their trunks capable of extracting a peanut from a pocket with the greatest of delicacy, or thwacking an errant hathi backside with some energy. Their eyes? Even the youngest elephants I saw--the babies at Pinnawala and the baby fellow with the topknot at Kelaniya--seem to be born with those sad, old, watchful eyes. They take in everything, especially if "everything" includes "bananas".
I love the way they splashed each other in the river. I loved watching the babies shuffle around spraying water in a slightly tentative fashion, and loved the way the elephants took turns protecting the babies from too much roughhousing. The Pinnawala elephants are used to humans, so they took not the slightest notice of the crowds watching them, unless we proffered fruit. They love the time in the water; they sulk when they have to come out and march crossly up the path, expressing their disapproval of short bathing times by smacking each other--and once in a while, the odd careless human who's strayed on to the path--with their trunks.
I suppose Pinnawela counts technically as "captivity", but the elephants there looked so much happier than the ones you see in most Indian zoos. They had friends and relatives in the herd. They knew their mahouts well. They had conversations with each other; they looked us up and down, and one young male cheekily patted me with his trunk in a terribly familiar sort of way.
The one who stands out in the herd is Sama, who had part of her left foot blown up by a land mine when she was just two years old. Sama limps, terribly, but if you drop bananas in the water by accident, she's the first to scoop them out of the waves with her trunk. Her spine is curved like a question mark; as she grows older, the curvature will increase, the mahouts said. The people at Project Lucky Sama are trying to train Sama to accept and use a prosthetic foot. Meanwhile, she gets around, on three legs, as best as she can. And if you have a bunch of bananas secreted on your person, she'll sniff them out faster than any of the rest.