In a conversation with The News Core, Rithik Kanu, founder of Wild and Free tells us about his animal NGO and what made him do this noble deed. He is a UG student pursuing B. Sc. from GC College, Silchar. The conversation emerged this way.
1. What made you think that you should start such an organization for the welfare of the voiceless?
Wild and Free is a non-government organization which aims at helping all the voiceless animals. When I lost my pet and my best friend Simba, I thought that I didn’t do enough to save his precious life. Only then I decided to help all the animals I could and give them a better life. After Simba’s demise, it was emotionally quite challenging for me to cope up with my normal life again. But initiating this animal welfare NGO, made me live, again.
2. What does Wild and Free actually do?
Wild and Free is for all the animals. We have no bar, we help every animal, regardless of, from which species it belongs to. Be it a reptile, bird, mammal, etc., we will help every animal in need. When we get rescue calls, our volunteers rescue the animal, then we bring it to our Wild and Free Shelter and then we try figuring out what has actually happened to the animal, like does it have any broken limb or wing or infected with something really severe. Next we do is, treat the animal. We do most of the cleaning and treatment on our own; sometimes we also consult a Veterinary Doctor, if the condition is severe. After the treatment, we keep the animal in our shelter for speculation of around 10 days or more, depending on the condition, then rehabilitate it and put them up for adoption once they are ready for a new and better life. Not all the animals from our shelter are put up for adoption. Rescued animals like reptiles and birds are released in their natural habitat.
3. How many volunteers do you have?
We have 52 volunteers as of now. There is no such regulation in Wild and Free for the volunteers. Anyone who wants to help us can voluntarily join us. We have volunteers who work from home and help us with the handling of social media and also in maintaining the records or the editorial section. Other volunteers do the field action, like rescuing the animals and facilitate in their treatment procedure. The volunteers who are engaged in the field action are first trained, in shifts of 2, for 4 days a week. This helps us in training more volunteers because sometimes there can be more than one rescue in a day and we can’t risk a life. We also have a few patrons who help us with the funds on monthly basis.
4. For how long have you been doing this good work?
My love for animals began when I was a toddler. Got my first dog bite at the age of 3, and I loved staying around animals. I had quite an experience about dogs like German Shepherd and Dobermann by the age of 4. When I was around 8, I began rescuing the needy animals, like an injured cat or pigeon. Since then I feel really connected and helping them makes me happy. Professional rescue and treatment started two years back and now I not only treat the animals but also train our volunteers how to rescue, treat, rehabilitate, etc.
5. What are your key achievements?
There is no such goal, we just want to help and cure more and more animals and give them a better life. But there is one thing which makes me really happy that Wild and Free has saved more than 20 lives so far, which were in extremely critical condition and almost lost hope of living. And also Wild and Free is the first in Silchar who initiated vaccination drive for the stray dogs. We have vaccinated 33 stray dogs from 3 different parts of Silchar, right on the street. And these are the achievements which encourage us to do better and save more lives.
6. What makes this organization different from other similar organizations?
The only major difference there is, I think, that we don’t just stop after the rescue; we also treat and rehabilitate and put the animals up for adoption or release them in their natural habitat. As mentioned earlier, we have no bar, no discrimination, when it comes to the species of the animal in need. So far we have rescued and treated a jackal, an owl, an eagle, snakes, civet, sparrows, cranes and little egrets and rescue calls for dogs, cats and cows has almost become a daily affair now. One specialty of Wild and Free is that we do the enrichment course of the dog or puppy before putting it up for adoption where it is trained to socialize and to be obedient. Even a first time pet owner can easily handle the adopted ones without much hurdle.
7. What challenges do you face as an animal welfare NGO?
One very common difficulty we face everytime, is when we get calls for rescuing any cat. People who call us, don’t understand the fact that the cat is capable of surviving on its own and it becomes difficult to convince them that cats mostly look younger than their actual age. It becomes really challenging for us to explain them, because they get offended real quick and misinterpret about the whole situation sometimes. We get rescue calls for cats/kittens, every second day, and if we bring all of them in our shelter, it will be difficult to accommodate all, as they cannot be kept in the cage, they will need a play area and for meeting all their needs we will need more funds and this is indeed really challenging. When we put the cats/kittens up for adoption, we get just a few responses comparatively to the ones we get when we put up a dog/puppy for adoption. Cats/kittens are rarely adopted, people go by the looks and gender, resulting in, they don’t get adopted and if the shelter gets too crowded or if there is any serious situation, we are bound to leave the cats/kittens back on the streets to survive on their own.
Putting a dog/puppy up for adoption creates a different scenario although. People who call and enquire, ask us do we have any Labrador or German Shepherd that they can adopt. Basically people don’t prefer the Indian Pariah breed, and even if they do, they will ask the gender, whether it’s a male or female. Mostly the male dogs/puppies are preferred by the people, in comparison to the females. This results in, all the males get adopted and females tend to stay with us for a longer period. But after a certain period we have to release them back on the streets because of lack of funding, space in the shelter, etc..
Owing to irregular funds, our organization strives really hard to meet the necessities. Due to this we face trouble in the mass feedings, treatments, daily food, maintenance of the shelter and many more. Since we can’t compromise with the quality of food and medicines we provide to the animals in our shelter, we try our best to manage the funds and continue to serve the voiceless.
8. How would you describe your management style?
The management of Wild and Free is well organized. The work among the volunteers is uniformly divided, they have a good coordination. We have different teams like: the rescue team, they are trained and taught how to handle the animal in a crucial rescue; the treatment team, they treat and take care of the rescued animals and they work in shifts of 2 for 4 days a week as mentioned earlier; the editorial team, looks after all the all the writing; the graphics team, looks after the editing of pictures or videos; the patrons team, they provide funds on monthly basis.
9. Do you have any long term objective that you would want to achieve?
We the people of Barak Valley, are actually lucky that we are surrounded with forests and wildlife. We would want to acknowledge people more about the wildlife and its importance. Since its inception Wild and Free has rescued a few wild animals like jackal and civet, we aim at helping more such animals of the wild in need. We also aim at gaining people’s trust and help, we want them to inform us about any animal who is suffering, and not neglect the situation. This will help us run our animal welfare organisation in a more better and successful way.
10. How much decision making authority is given to the new volunteers?
At Wild and Free, we believe in equality and not maintaining a hierarchy. Every individual has the right to keep in front his/her ideologies and opinions. One can give new ideas and comments on how to improve the organization and make it better every day. There is complete decision making authority until it benefits our organization.
11. How do you manage funds?
After an animal is rescued, we require immediate funds for various purposes like its treatment, food, transportation, etc. We look after the transportation charges on our own, but it is not always possible to look after the whole treatment and feeding requirements. Our volunteers pay their part on monthly basis, same as the patrons. But when we run out of funds and it’s an emergency, we appeal to the public through social media, to donate some amount and help us save a life.
12. Are you happy doing this good deed?
It’s not about making me happy, it’s all about saving a life and I think everyone must possess this attitude. Helping a voiceless will cost one nothing, but will give one needy animal a life. The animal will cherish you and will surely give you back the love and respect.
(The author of this article is Neelakshi Roy)