Day, HT City introduces you to three such couples from the region whose contribution towards animal welfare is worth appreciating.
A leopard which unfortunately did not survive while being rescued by Nikhil at Gardiwal, in Hoshiarpur.
The ‘rescue couple’
A total of 5,500 snakes, more than a 100 deers and sambars, about 20 barking deers and 30 blue bulls and leopards have so far been rescued by Nikhil Sanger, 32, and his wife, Sonika Mann, 25. Call it anything — sheer craziness, determination, love or passion — that drives the couple which has spent the past 11 years rescuing wild creatures and running their Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar-based organisation called Wildlife Conservation Society since 2007.
“When a wild animal comes out of its habitat and creates a problem in others’ habitat, we usually rescue it and release it in its own surroundings. We have rescued animals from houses, wells, farms and cars,” shares Nikhil, who believes rescuing an animal is a part of conservation, which makes them study the animals that they come across daily, ‘so that they can help in conservation affectionately.’
As a part of their 24-hour rescue service, Nikhil and Sonika receive at least three or four rescue calls in a day, and claim to have never let go of any, sometimes averaging 12 a day.
Nikhil, who is an artist, is an honorary wildlife warden for Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar and was awarded the State Wildlife Award by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2011. Adds Sonika, an MFA (Maters in Fine Arts) final year student at Government College of Art, Chandigarh, who is also a freelance sculptor and is currently pursuing a thesis on animals’ emotions, “In July 2011, at the State Wildlife Board meeting, we highlighted the issue of snake bite compensation through the chief wildlife officer.
Now, Punjab is the second place after West Bengal where snake bite victims get R20,000 in compensation and the next of kin of those who died as a result of snake bites get R1 lakh. Also, during the summers, we buy water tankers and replenish water in manmade and natural water holes in forests. Our society has put in more than 48 tankers in the Shivalik Hills forest area.”
Chandigarh-based Varun Chopra, 30, and his wife Ashu Chopra, 29, are playing a crucial role in creating awareness about wildlife through their website: www.thejunglesafari.com. Varun, who is an honorary wildlife warden for Patiala, shares, “The Jungle Safari group specialises in conducting wildlife tours to different wildlife destinations in India through customised tours. Our aim is to make wildlife excursions thrilling.”
Varun left his job in the media sector before starting this project. Also an avid wildlife photographer, he gives further insight into the objectives of Jungle Safari. “Young and energetic wildlife professionals who have expertise in conducting wildlife tours as well as wildlife photography form this venture. Apart from making our clients witness and feel the serenity of a jungle, our endeavor is to spread awareness about eco-tourism amongst them. I also paste pictures
clicked by me on sites such as Facebook, flicker.com, and shutterstock.com,” says Varun.
Ashu, who is continuing her job in a telecom company, assists Varun in this venture.
Loving each other and the animals
Graduates from the Government College of Art, Chandigarh, Sandy Setia, 31, and Divya Raghuvanshi, 28, began their mission of saving and rescuing animals in 2001, the same year they fell in love.
Shares Sandy, “This mission is now 11 years old, and we named it Animal Relief Foundation in 2006. We are handling most kinds of animals, birds and reptiles. Until now, we have handled almost 3,000 animals (mostly stray dogs). We also have worked with several animal welfare organisations such as People for Animals and AHF (Animal Help Foundation, Ahmedabad-based).”
He recalls a recent incident, “Some days ago, a cow was hit by a car and fractured its rib cage. We got the call at 12 am, and we were with the cow till 3 am, which is when we convinced the PFA van to come and take it.”
Sandy has many other interesting tales to share, such as this one. “Kids living in our society call us ‘doctor uncle aunty’. Following in our footsteps, they have started rescuing birds wherein they bring in injured birds and help us .”
On Facebook too, says Sandy, they constantly update their page on ARF and add various animal-related activities for their 200 followers to read. “We are also coming up with comics that give messages on stray animals, which will be released online on November 14. People can also subscribe these,” he adds.
The couple also runs a design studio in Chandigarh, called Dream Factory. And every month, they take out 10-15% of their income for the animals.