Andaman Chronicle

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Push For the Right Things

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

This is for all those people who write to me complaining about the dogs on the streets. They always start their emails by saying they are great animal lovers and they have dogs of their own BUT we must do something about the “dog menace” in order for them, their children, and their dogs, to move freely without encountering “junglees”, “strays”, “ pi-dogs”.

While the government, and all the courts, have ordered sterilization of all dogs by all municipalities and district administrations, in reality less than a tenth of the country is doing it. Lack of vets, lack of money and, the most important, is lack of vision. The dog sterilization programme is controlled by the Ministry of Environment, who put out less than 50 lakhs a year for it, instead of the Ministry for Health which has been allocated more than Rs 300 crores. But the Ministry for Environment will not hand it over. And the Ministry for Health is not trying too hard because, as their secretary said to me “Our job is not to sterilize dogs”. Since this would come under the heading of rabies control, I asked why they were killing mosquitoes since that was not their job. Because, that was the only way to bring malaria under control. Exactly. Sterilizing and vaccinating dogs would remove rabies within 5 years.

It is difficult to educate bureaucrats, since the space where their brains should be is filled with ego and a limited logic that runs only on one narrow gauge track.

However, here is another way to deal with the dogs and cats on the road. Illegal breeders are breeding lakhs of pedigreed dogs who are unhealthy, inbred and found in every pet shop. It is now illegal for any pet shop to keep any animals without a registration, which is very strict, but our feet on the ground are so limited and so vulnerable to bribes that I am not sure how long it will take the authorities to apply the new laws.

So, here is what we can do:

America’s shelters have a kill policy. Abandoned animals in shelters are allowed to live 28 days and if they are not adopted, they are killed. Over the years a large number of no-kill shelters have come up. But the dogs live in cages for the rest of their lives, unless they are adopted.

In 2017 , California passed a law, A.B.485, that pet stores will only sell puppies, kittens and rabbits from shelters and rescue centres. Violators will be fined $ 500 and shut down. This effectively puts an end to commercial animal breeders and brokers, and to the terrible practice of illegal breeding. Just recently we had to rescue 11 dogs in the backyard of a doctor in Thane. They were starved, on the verge of death, eating their own faeces, but each had given birth to any number of puppies who had been sold by the doctor with forged certificates as to their foreign pedigree.

The pet trade in America predictably protested saying that “it would jeopardise  jobs”. (They were overruled). But in India the trade does not employ anyone. It is an illegal business which operates by taking a few dogs, tying them up, forcibly breeding them every six months and then putting them in illegal pet shops. It will put no one out of business.

Why not bring the same law into India. Almost every city now has an animal welfare group. Many of them have animal shelters. My shelter in Delhi, Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre, gets  a minimum of ten throwaways a day. People who have bought pedigreed dogs, kept them badly, made them sick, tied them up the whole day and made them ferocious, and then they come to the hospital, pretend they have come for medicine /treatment and then, when they think no one is looking, they run off, leaving the dog behind in an alien, diseased, unfriendly surrounding. We take Rs 15,000 for each abandoned animal but, in order not to pay, these people – who have paid far more in buying the dogs, will tie them to the gate or even throw them over the wall.

Most of the abandoned dogs are Pomeranians and Spitzes. The others are Labradors, and the huge woolly Swiss ones that were originally smuggled into India. And, of course, lots of Vodafone pugs. We put the dogs into a special enclosure, in full view of the hundreds of visitors who come, so that they can adopt them. Some get homes. Others waste away with broken hearts, and the terror of being in an uncomfortable enclosure with fifty other dogs, till they die. My sister takes the most damaged ones home, and she has 17 in her tiny house. I have 24.  Once they recover and bounce back, we try and find homes for them.

So, if we made it compulsory for pet shops to only sell dogs and cats from shelters, we would be able to achieve two things: the abandoned foreign animals would find homes and the shelters would make a little money. The dogs/cats could be sterilized, vaccinated and made healthy before selling – unlike the pedigreed dogs/cats that come from breeders . They are sold without vaccinations and most of them die as puppies of distemper and parvo.

The other thing it would achieve is that pet shops will start selling the cutest Indian puppies supplied to them from shelters. No shelter will breed foreign dogs, so, , in the absence of formal retail outlets, the breeding of foreign dogs will go down. People who want dogs will take Indian dogs. People who like buying dogs will buy them from shops.

Please start campaigning in your states for this. We can make the world a much kinder place if we push for the right things. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Giraffe Population Falls by 40% in Fifteen Years

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

In 1990 I went to the dreadful Kolkata zoo. They had imported a young female giraffe from Africa- a practice we need to ban. She was utterly beautiful with her shy long lashed eyes and graceful ballet legs. I named her Teesta – after the mysterious and spectacular river. The Kolkata zoo officials, and the Minister, promised that they were going to relocate the zoo to a large area where the animals would roam free. Forty years and at least 4,000 deaths later I am still waiting. Teesta is dead. The Kolkata zoo decided to relocate the giraffes to Odisha’s Nandankanan zoo. They loaded them into an open truck and, while they were swerving, the animals hit their heads on an electric pole and died.

While the world concentrates on lions, gorillas and elephants being decimated, the giraffe is almost extinct. In the last 15 years the population of giraffes has fallen by 40%. Now there are less than 80,000 left and they reduce every day. Soon, they will only be seen in zoos and then it’s over.

The main culprits in this case are the Americans. Conservation groups, like Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have been petitioning the government since the last two years to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. No action has been taken.

What difference will it make to giraffes in Africa if America passes the Act? Because giraffes are losing their lives to tribal hunting and to souvenir hunters in America, who kill through Fedex- one giraffe is killed for a carving to be made on its bone. On average, the U.S. imports about one giraffe hunting trophy a day, and the country has imported 21,402 bone carvings, 3,008 skin pieces and 3,744 miscellaneous hunting trophies from giraffes over the last few years . Giraffe bones are now the new ivory and the USA is heavily implicated in the trade with its large market for giraffe parts. Once China gets into it as well- then giraffes will be gone in six months.

Africa now has fewer giraffes than elephants. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature elevated the threat level to giraffes from “least concern” to “vulnerable” on its “Red List of Threatened Species” in 2016.

Giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth. Their legs alone are taller than many humans. They can run at 35 miles an hour – but who can run fast enough to dodge a hunter’s bullet?

They are found in the dry savannas of Africa, where they roam on the open plains and sparse woodlands. They eat acacia leaves from the trees – their necks are far too short to reach the ground, but long enough to reach the tree tops.. Their long blue tongues help them pull down 45 kg of leaves and twigs daily. Their height, and eyesight, makes it easy for them to spot predators, like lions and hyenas, from far away. Their kicks are strong and sometimes lethal. They bellow, snort, hiss and make flute like sounds.

Giraffes are social animals and roam around in groups of females and calves led by an adult male. Giraffes can live till 40. The age can be found in the skin spots. The darker the spots, the older the giraffe.

Female giraffes give birth standing up. Newborns fall 6 feet to the ground but within 30 minutes they are standing, and hours later they're able to run with their mothers.

The gestation period for a giraffe is 457 days, which is about 15 months. Generally, only a single baby is born. A female giraffe averages around five calves in her lifetime About 50 per cent of all giraffe calves do not survive their first year. This percentage of infant mortality goes up, depending on the number of lions in the area. Recent studies show the death of 82% of young calves in lion rich areas.

Giraffes used to be distributed throughout North and West Africa, including the Sahara, and along the Nile. Today giraffes are only found in sub-Saharan Africa. From herds of 20-30 animals in the 90s, their average herd now contains fewer than six individuals.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the creatures are undergoing a "silent extinction". A mass extinction of giraffes will disrupt ecosystems in Africa, with the lions next.

In the war torn areas of northern Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan the giraffe is seen as a large animal whose meat can feed a large number of people – and all it costs is a single bullet. The giraffe is dispersed over 21 countries, in state-owned national parks, private and communal lands. Out of nine subspecies fewer than 300 “West African giraffes” survive in Niger and less than 700 “Rothschild’s giraffes” are dispersed between Uganda and Kenya, according to a report by wildlife experts at Elephant Without Borders. Kenya is down from 30,000 mammals in the 1990s to 5,500 today.

The statistics of their survival now go from the species increasing in southern Africa over the last three decades, to decreasing by 95% in East Africa. The success in keeping giraffe numbers high in Southern Africa has much to do with the management of the wildlife areas.

In Tanzania the belief is that consuming giraffe brains and bone marrow could be a cure for HIV -  “freshly severed heads and giraffe bones can fetch prices of up to $140 per piece.”

Giraffe is a part of bush meat in a number of rural African communities. Their skin is used for clothing, shoes, bags, belts, hats and covers for drums. Their hair makes jewellery, thread for sewing or stringing beads. Their tails are used to swish flies away and were originally symbols of authority.

Many African governments have restrictions on hunting, bans on hunting in National Parks, introduction of license systems, but people continue to hunt wildlife illegally. And American tourists pay local poachers to do the hunting and send them the parts through couriers, like the Minnesota dentist who had Cecil, the iconic and protected lion in Zimbabwe, killed in 2015 and the head shipped to him. The US is the largest importer of trophies in the world.

As human populations grow, and increase agricultural activities expand settlements, and construct roads, the giraffe is losing its acacia trees, which are its main source of food. They face the risk of collisions with vehicles and power lines. But the species is mainly threatened by “trophy” hunters who travel to Africa to shoot their big-game quarry. These hunters overwhelmingly come from the US. In August pictures emerged of a 12-year-old girl from Utah posing with her rifle beside the slumped body of a dead giraffe. “In the past few years, several gruesome images of trophy hunters next to slain giraffe bodies have caused outrage, bringing this senseless killing to light,” said Masha Kalinina, international trade policy specialist with Humane Society International.

Giraffes are one of the most iconic animals in the world, but the clock is now ticking for their survival.

America’s government must realize the importance of banning giraffe trophies. An endangered species listing would place heavy restrictions on any American hunter wishing to travel to Africa and bring back a slaughtered giraffe.

ABCD books for children have all got G for giraffe. How will we explain to a child in ten years time what a giraffe was? 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Make Sure to Keep an Eye Out for Our Animals on the Streets

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

People for Animals Mysore picked up a horse whose head had been half eaten. I am including his pictures – the before and after. This has been a success story, but there are a hundred others who have had to be put to sleep because the parasites had burrowed far too deep.

Animals put up with a great deal more pain than humans – but what is their option? There are no doctors to look after them. Most owners abandon them if they get sick.

There are three killers on the road for stray and abandoned animals: distemper, parvo and maggots.

Have you ever come across a dog with gaping holes in its back? A cow with holes in its abdomen? A donkey with seeping wounds on its neck? These are  maggot injuries. Every day we get dozens of cases at my shelter in Delhi, and it is heart breaking that we allow our animals to reach such a stage.

Imagine if you had flesh eating flies, and their larvae, landing on a slight wound on your skin and burrowing into your body till you have been eaten from the inside. And, when your body starts smelling because it is rotting away, people throw stones at you to shoo you away.

A horse brought to my shelter had a fist sized hole on its head, and his brain was exposed. Bali, as we later named him, was found lying in an abandoned building, at the brink of death. Flies had laid eggs on a wound near his ear and the maggots had eaten their way in. Bali had given up when he first arrived at the shelter, but how could we?  This was a start to a 3-month recovery of Bali at my shelter in Delhi.

Myiasis, or infestation of the animal body with flies and their larvae or maggots, is one of the most common problems faced by animals, especially those on the streets. What attracts these flies to lay their eggs on the animal’s body, and what follows after?

These flies are attracted to any animal with an open wound left unattended – not just dogs, but cats, cows, horses, sheep, goats. The eggs are deposited and hatch within four hours when the weather is moist and warm. The young larvae start burrowing into the flesh of the animal. Animals who are weak and debilitated are ideal victims. Any type of draining wound, or a moist coat soaked in urine and faeces, can become the perfect spot for flies to lay their eggs.

Is it just street animals? No, a large number of pets come in. Their owners keep them chained outside in all weather, never brush their coats, feed them badly. They gnaw at themselves out of boredom, or the chain bites into their necks, and the maggots come in. It is only when they start smelling that the owners bring them in.  Some want them treated. Others stand in line for treatment and then quietly slip out through the gate abandoning them forever. 

How can you identify and treat a maggot infested wound?

Maggot infested wounds are easily identifiable. Look for any unattended wounds on the animal’s body, a characteristic smell, and you will be able to see actual white maggots moving inside the wound/hole. Some of the more common places I have come across for maggots in a dog are the toe nails  and pads under the feet – which are less frequently checked – under the tail and on the head. If you see flies buzzing around any part of the animal make sure to find the wound and get it treated before those eggs hatch.

Treatment of maggot infested wounds is fairly simple; however, complete recovery can take up to 1-3 months depending on how far the maggots burrowed. The vet starts off by putting some chloroform into the wound, waiting for a while and picking each maggot out one by one. Since we get hundreds of cases at my shelter, we use a mixture of chloroform and turpentine, in equal amounts, to kill the maggots. In small animals, like dogs, the vet cleans the wound with an antiseptic before beginning to remove the maggots. He then applies Lorexene or Maggocide ointments, specifically meant to kill maggots. Once the wound is cleaned and the maggot-killing ointment applied, the vet then stuffs cotton gauze into the wound and covers it with a bandage. It is very important to make sure the wound is airtight, this is, so the maggots left inside suffocate to death without any oxygen to breathe. Depending on the severity of the maggot infested wound, the vet makes the decision of changing the bandages twice, or once daily, while being extremely meticulous about removing all the maggots each time the bandage is opened.

As supportive therapy, Zincolak can help the wound heal faster. Antibiotics in the Sulphur range, or Amoxycillin which act as tissue healers, might also be prescribed by the vet. Once the healing begins, we usually use Betadine and Furacin ointment at the hospital for a rapid recovery.

Bali was one of the few lucky ones who survived. With constant care over a period of 3 months, Bali was back to being the beautiful horse that he was meant to be.

When animals are in pain, and are about ready to give up, they hide in dark places. Unfortunately, for the larvae these are perfect conditions to flourish and feed, speeding up the process of the animals evisceration and death. If you were to ever come across a wounded animal on the street, do make sure to call my shelter and save the animal from endless days of misery with maggots feeding on its flesh.

On one last note, maggot infested wounds might be gross to look at, but are simple to treat, with basic medication and care. Make sure to keep an eye out for our animals on the streets. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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