How to Help Animals During Floods

Conservationist Manoj Gogoi gives an insight into conditions of wildlife at Kaziranga National Park in flood-struck Assam
One horned rhinos take shelter on highland during flood at Kaziranga National Park
One horned rhinos take shelter on highland during flood at Kaziranga National Park

News of devastating floods in various states of India has taken over the news channels in the past month. While water-logging in places like Vadodara, Mumbai and now Kerala have left people trapped in their houses, the floods of Assam brought concern not just for the residents of the state but also for the native wildlife. With dense forests and dedicated conservation areas such as Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, the biodiversity in these areas are kept intact. As floods swept over residential areas as well as the natural settlements for animals, humans as well as animals faced heavy risks. In fact, to escape the flooding plains of Kaziranga, many animals began to travel towards the hills, some meeting fatal deaths on their journey by way of road accidents. A shock to the habitants near the park, animals began to seek shelter at human abodes. 

A tweet shared by the Wildlife Trust India shows a tiger escaping the floods to rest in the household of a local resident. 

Home to two-thirds of the great one horned rhinoceroses in the world, Kaziranga National Park&rsquos submersion in water was awfully tragic for the life of these animals. With over 90% of the national park wrapped in deep waters, these creatures spent hours swimming in an attempt to reach any secure land. Hog deers were the most affected species, losing over 100 of their kind. Including the deaths of other animals, the park witnessed a fatal end to over 200 animals at least. 

Could this have been avoided How can we rescue these helpless creatures in such situations while maintaining safety for humans To seek solutions, OT spoke to conservationist and animal rescue expert Manoj Gogoi, who shared his perspective on the condition of animals in the area and the evolving perception of locals towards the wild beasts. 

Born and raised in Kaziranga area, Gogoi grew up with a strong connection to wildlife. Taking a different route in his career, Gogoi took up a job in animal conservation and rescue upon meeting a contact during his our guide days. In the past years, Gogoi has managed to bring change to people&rsquos attitudes towards wildlife by raising awareness. While killing stray animals was considered acceptable previously, people of Kaziranga now call Gogoi to rescue the animal instead. 

&ldquoI would give people information they didn&rsquot have previously. I would make sure I spoke to them about the food cycle and importance of every species in the world, along with various ways to get rid of unwanted creatures in the villages without harming them. For example, if a King cobra was found, I would explain to them that it controls the population of the rest of the snakes and is thus, vital to stable biodiversity. I wouldn&rsquot just rescue these animals, I would also inform people about them,&rdquo said Gogoi. 

Speaking of the floods and its effect on the animals, Gogoi said &ldquo When we have floods, we predict it beforehand and warn people to stay prepared. However, animals are more troubled and generally attempt to move towards the higher lands at Karbi Anglong. It is during this travel that they get stuck in fences or in the water, fall in wells, enter private abodes or get hit by a car. It is very important to rescue these animals&rdquo.

However, not all stray animals call for rescue, in cases where animals seek shelter in backyards, Gogoi suggest that the resident should simply allow them to rest and leave upon regaining strength. &ldquoThe animals swim very far and are very weak by the time they collapse in someone&rsquos backyard. In most cases, they will regain their strength and leave by nightfall. There is no requirement for any involvement by the forest department,&rdquo said Gogoi. 

There have been efforts by the forest departments for contingency against these natural calamaties. Gogoi mentioned, &ldquo2017 saw a fatal flood. While the flood was worse this year, less animals perished thanks to the manmade highlands built. These animals could just climb onto safety because of these.&rdquo

Gogoi&rsquos life and noteworthy work was depicted in a 2018 documentary called &ldquoThe Man Who Speaks Nature&rdquo. So what does Gogoi have up his sleeves that other people are unable to achieve the same bond he has with animals &ldquoI love animals. Despite not having formal training, I have knowledge of these animals because I spend incredible amounts of time studying them. If I engage with any animal, I observe their mannerisms, behaviour, what they eat, where they live, everything I can find out through observation. I once brought back four wildcat cubs to the rescue center and slept next to them for 12 days-- not even going home. I studied them and that&rsquos what helps me understand them and work with them,&rdquo said the nature-lover. 

During the floods, in a situation where he was called to deal with an unwanted animal in someone&rsquos abode, he would observe the animal and study their behaviour and wait till the animals should indication for the need to be rescued. He said &ldquoI rescue them according to them, not me. If I force them, it will be a bad scenario for both of us. I also make sure of my safety before attempting a rescue.&rdquo 

The roaring rise of natural calamities in India can be attributed to the increasing Global warming and climate change. Speaking of manmade destruction of natural resources, Gogoi said &ldquo We did this to nature with our pollution. Animals have no contribution but unfortunately they will also be affected. Let me tell you something very important, we need to protect Karbi Anglong to have Kaziranga National Park. Unless we take care of settlements and nature in our cities, towns and villages, there will be no national parks to protect.&rdquo 

When asked about his thoughts on various world leaders denying the involvement of humans and even the existence of global warming, Gogoi said adamantly &ldquoWhy else has done this if not us Look at the state of all our cities and their weather. Animals have not done this. Why can&rsquot we take the blame If humans perish, nature will not get affected. But humans cannot live without other species in nature. 

While Gogoi appreciates an increased interest in the study of animals and biodiversity by large, he still believes there is a long way to go to attain a stable and respectable relationship between man and nature. &ldquoIf God asked me what I wanted for my next life, I would ask for the same thing and work harder towards serving the animals&rdquo, Gogoi passionately added. 

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