Latest Entries »

Under the leadership of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, the CPREEC (C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Environmental Education Centre) in Chennai, India, has restored 53 sacred groves, over the past thirty years – bringing back the original flora and fauna and restoring these small forests with the same species of plants and animals which always lived there in the past, providing once again beautiful tranquil lands which the people living nearby had treasured in the past. Each village in India once had a sacred grove. Now, the village people themselves maintain and care for these restored sacred forests and the abundant wildlife that live there.

These ancient sacred groves represent one of the amazing traditions of India, which has traditionally valued and preserved the life and the beauty of the natural world.

Dr. Nanditha Krishna is an environmentalist, art historian and well-known author of over twenty-five books about the art, culture, and the natural world of India. Among these are Hinduism and Nature, Sacred Animals of India, and Sacred Plants of India.

Listening to this short video, you will be transported to the city of Chennai where you will be among the tall, peaceful trees of the CPREEC and CPRA Foundation centers, yet not far from the busy city life of nearby streets.

Just as they did during the lockdown a year ago, Blue Cross has been giving thousands of meals every day to the street dogs in Chennai, in the south of India.

During normal times, many street dogs hang out around tea shops and restaurants where customers give them handouts. During the lockdown these businesses have all been closed, and the dogs have been left with no source of food, so the feeding by the Blue Cross volunteers has saved their lives.

Chefs to the rescue

This has been a huge undertaking. Blue Cross has coordinated cooking the food – dog food in India is cooked and is a healthy mixture of rice and other nutritional ingredients and supplements. They have worked with chefs in restaurants and hotels who have volunteered to cook the food. When the restaurants were closed, the chefs came in every day especially to do this, while Blue Cross provided the ingredients. This has been a very large expense for them – around $600 every day, and this is in addition to feeding the one thousand or so animals who they care for, at any given time, at their main shelter.

Blue Cross has organized many dozens of volunteers to distribute the food to the dogs; some of these kind people also feed the dogs during normal times, but now it’s risen to a whole new level. They also bring along food for cows and other animals out on the street. Last year Blue Cross was able to arrange an understanding with the police for the dog feeders to be out on the street during the lockdown, and this has continued this year. In some cases the police themselves have helped with the feeding.

A native breed

Most of the street dogs in India are a native breed of “All-India” dogs that arose naturally and was not “bred.” They are of medium height, with short fur and ears pointing up. For thousands of years they have existed in Indian cities. They tend to be shy, quiet, and very adept at crossing the street while avoiding traffic. They are quite used to being out on the street. The five thousand or so humane shelters in India do not and have never rounded up the street dogs to kill them in shelters. It would not have occurred to them to do so. They simply help those animals who are injured or in distress.

In 1964, Blue Cross of India began the first, continuously running, spay/neuter program in the entire world. This program has been going ever since and has never stopped; it paused only briefly during the two lockdowns for the pandemic. It is efficient and effective and is known as the ABC program because, as Blue Cross’s co-founder and chairman emeritus, Dr Chinny Krishna, says, “It is as simple as ABC.”

A long history of helping street dogs

The ABC program has always included rabies vaccinations, which have brought rabies under control throughout the city of Chennai (and eliminated it entirely during several years), saving the lives of both animals and people.

The ongoing, dedicated work of Blue Cross caring for the street dogs of Chennai has had a powerful influence on the care of dogs and other animals in cities all over India – although India has traditionally, true to their culture and philosophy – been a land which values kindness towards all animals. The ABC program maintains a steady, stable population of the dogs, who are calm and well habituated to their neighborhoods, where they can live peacefully for many years.

In addition, Blue Cross runs a very active ambulance rescue service for animals in distress, helping many thousands of dogs and other animals each year. Dogs found on the street who have formerly been pets are taken to the Blue Cross shelter and placed in the adoption program to find loving homes.

Please help Blue Cross, if you can. They have undertaken the monumental task of feeding the street dogs during this time when they have had no regular source of food. A little goes a long way. Bless you and thank you.

Photos: Velu, Blue Cross of India

Vaccination site in Bangalore, India
Photo 215572010 / Covid In © Jaidev Narayan | Dreamstime.com

Locating oxygen canisters and hospital beds

During the pandemic, many of the people at the CPRA Foundation, in Chennai, India, instead of doing their usual office work, have been spending long hours on the phone helping those who are ill – by locating oxygen canisters for those having trouble breathing who are staying at home and by locating available hospital beds for those who need to be hospitalized. This hasn’t been easy to do since oxygen canisters have been very hard to find anywhere due to the huge demand – and the hospitals are full to capacity. With a lot of perseverance, however, they have been able to help and have saved lives in this way.


A migrant worker with his daughter walking along a highway.
Photo 188572407 / Covid © Manoej Paateel | Dreamstime.com

Helping migrant workers

The CPRA Foundation has helped wherever they can in other ways too. When migrant workers from Bihar in the north of India who had been doing construction work were stranded during the lockdown, they were allowed to stay on the property. The Swanag Constructions Private Limited Company continues to pay them a part of their salary although they are no longer working. Every day the CPRA Foundation gives them free meals of rice and lentils, which is the staple diet in Tamil Nadu. Being able to stay in Chennai in a safe place has been an enormous help to them since Bihar is hundreds of miles away, and they really have had no way to get home while the lockdown lasts. Last year, in many Indian cities, migrant workers, like the man in the image above with his daughter, had a lot of difficulty during the lockdown. The CPRA Foundation wanted to make sure that this did not happen to any of these workers. They are all young men who will either continue working in Chennai or will go back to their villages in Bihar after the lockdown ends.

Mrs. Niraja, school psychologist
Photo: Sharon St Joan

Saraswathi Kendra students

The Saraswathi Kendra Learning Center, the school for children with learning disabilities run by the CPRA Foundation, has set up special programs to help the children and their parents during the pandemic. Learning remotely and the stress of having to stay at home all day has brought unique challenges for these children.

The school psychologist, Mrs. Niraja, has stayed In touch with both the parents and the children throughout the lockdown and has put into effect home interventions to help in each specific situation.

One child learned to garden and found that relating to plants gave her a great sense of calm and a feeling of security.

A nine year old girl, following her conversations with Niraja, was able to develop a pattern of having set times for play and times for study. She grew to love reading and spends some time every day reading a book. She’s also begun to ask her parents to tell her stories. Her temper tantrums, which had been a problem, have vanished, and her mother wrote that she now asks for whatever she needs clearly and politely.

Positive transformations have taken place in the lives of dozens of these children, helping both them and their parents – thanks to the efforts and ingenuity of Niraja, who, instead of lowering her expectations for the children during the difficult days of covid, has only redoubled her efforts to help each child. Amazing changes have been the result.

The Saraswathi Kendra Learning Center has always had a policy of relating to each child as an individual, with his or her own unique talents and abilities. In this way, the children are able to pursue whatever they are good at and to find a path in life that will bring them success.
Many of the students go on to university, and many have highly successful careers, especially in classical dance or as sports stars. Above all, they can find happiness, knowing that they are cared for and appreciated for exactly who they are.

In December 2020, the police rescued two Eurasian collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto) from illegal pet traders and brought them to the WRRC (Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre) in Bangalore, India.

First they were temporarily put into a cage, then moved to an aviary.

Fortunately, their feathers had not been clipped by the pet traders. If their feathers had been clipped, the recovery time would have taken much longer and been more difficult since the birds would have had to molt and then regrow their feathers.

In this case, since the feathers were intact, both had good flight, were active, and flew about with ease in the large aviary in which they were housed.

This lovely pair of doves had narrowly escaped having to spend their whole lives in captivity. Thanks to quick action by the police and the excellent care they received at the WRRC, their lives will be happy ones, spent in freedom in the wild.

After two months both were released together at the center since their species can be found in the forests nearby. They can still be heard, not far away, with their distinct vocalizations.

Photo credit: WRRC

© Forest Voices of India, 2021

An adult Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) was rescued and brought from the village adjoining the forest, close to the WRRC center.

Somehow his leg had been broken. Some of the villagers tried their best for quite some time to catch him, but he always managed to slip away from them. Unfortunately, by the time they were able to catch him and bring him in for treatment, the leg had deteriorated so much that it had to be amputated, which was done by Dr. Roopa Satish and her team. He soon recovered and was able to get around well with just one leg.

His flying ability was good, and he was doing really well. However, he was still a handicapped bird, and it wouldn’t be safe for him to be released deep in the forest. So, he was released at the WRRC center itself where he can choose to make little forays into the nearby forest or spend his days in the area of the center itself. This is a much safer life for him. He is very comfortable there, sleeping in any one of the treetops, or watching the activities of the center from a front row perch on a roof – or, as Dr. Roopa writes, “occasionally coming down to earth to grace us with his beautiful plumage.”

Photo credit: WRRC

In September of 2020, a juvenile spot-billed pelican (Pelicanus phillipensis) was rescued from a home in the city of Bangalore and brought to the WRRC (the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, in Bangalore, India).

When she arrived, she was shy around people and also aggressive, as a wild bird would normally be. She wasn’t yet able to fly. She wasn’t feeling well, was not eating, and seemed to have an infection, so she was treated for this and was handfed.

Dr. Roopa Satish and the caregivers realized that, probably, the pelican was from one of the city lakes and had been kidnapped, possibly to be used for meat. Fortunately, she had been rescued by a good Samaritan, who understood just where to take her and brought her to the WRRC so she could receive expert care.

Learning to fly

Before long, she was able to eat on her own and was beginning to flap her wings, lift herself into the air, and exercise her flight muscles. Soon, she was put into a larger aviary where she had a wonderful time learning to fly. After a few months though, she could fly so well that the aviary became too small for her. She was brushing her wings against the sides in flight and risking hurting herself, so she really needed to be released right away.

This was a dilemma though because there were no pelicans flying in the immediate vicinity in the Bannerghatta Forest and the city lakes were not pleasant or safe release sites due to the high volume of human activity – fishing, boating, strolling, and bird watching. They weren’t a good place for a wild bird to be.

A place of refuge

In February, 2021, the pelican was driven 180 kilometers (50 miles) to a very special village, Kokkrebelluru, which is filled with birds. The people there love the birds and even sing songs to welcome them back after their migration. Nearby there are large, clean, beautiful lakes – good places for pelicans to catch fish. There are many other species of birds, such as painted storks, ibis, and Brahminy kites. The local villagers protect the birds, so they feel at home there, and they build hundreds of nests in the surrounding trees.

This was the perfect place for the pelican. She was released there at a research center for pelicans set up by the Forest Department and overseen by a pelican researcher.

They will keep an eye on her as she learns to fish for herself and will give some supplemental feeding if it is needed. When she’s fully ready, she’ll be able to live her life free in the wild, in a beautiful, safe, protected spot of great beauty. She’ll make new friends and will be able to migrate and return again to this idyllic place, living her life in freedom as nature intended.

Thanks to thoughtful person who rescued her, the expert care given by the WRRC team, and the help of the research center and the kind villagers of Kokkrebelluru, the pelican who very nearly became dinner is now all set to have a bright and happy future.


Photo credit: WRRC

The pandemic has hit India hard. But there are groups you can support who are making a big difference for families. For example, with schools shut down, many children are in danger of losing a lifetime chance at education – or of getting into trouble or marrying younger than they would like to. But the CPRA Foundation is focused on making sure that schooling and opportunities continue, even for some of the poorest children in their region.

Extending a lifeline

Throughout the pandemic, the CPRA Foundation (the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation) has redoubled their efforts and extended a lifeline to many in this difficult time.

Children with learning disabilities

In the Saraswathi Kendra Learning Centre, a school for children with learning disabilities, autism, or dyslexia, in south India, the CPRA Foundation has been providing the children with both online education and online counseling. The head psychologist, Mrs. Niraja, has organized parents’ counseling groups to guide the parents in how to relate to the children when they are at home and not in school. They have continued to make amazing transformations in the lives of the students. In normal times, some of these children pay fees for school. Others cannot afford to pay. No one knows which children are paying and which are not, and that’s how it should be. There is no charge for any of the special counseling.

Schools for low-income children

In the two elementary schools outside of Chennai that the CPRA Foundation runs for low-income children, finding ways to help the children learn remotely has been challenging.

The CPRA Foundation runs four schools. The school in Kumbakonam, to the south of Chennai, is a free elementary school for very low-income children whose parents cannot afford to pay anything at all for their children’s education – they may work as waiters or domestic help, or as laborers in brick factories. The CPRA Foundation bought and gave to the students, textbooks and notebooks for use during the school year when the students did not go to school because of the pandemic. However, since many of the parents cannot read or write, they weren’t able to help their children to read these books, so they were of only limited benefit.

In Kanchipuram, an hour to the west of Chennai, The CPRA Foundation runs an elementary school for girls. There the teachers produced a video of themselves going through each lesson. This was easy to watch and understand and was extremely helpful for the students, enabling them to keep up with their academic work.

The CPRA Foundation also runs a scholarship program, called Each One Teach One – sending children to several schools in Chennai and paying for their education. 600 children are part of this program, being paid for by the CPRA Foundation. However, in this lost school year, the children could not attend school. Since most of the families had lost their jobs, the Foundation took the money for the scholarships and distributed it to the families to help them through this year when they had no income.

Challenges for the children of India

One morning, a woman, as she was struggling to load trash onto the back of a garbage truck, was asked why she was allowing her son, who looked to be around ten, to work alongside her. She replied, “His school is closed, and if I leave him home alone, he will be running wild in the streets. It’s safer for him if he’s with me, so I bring him along.” She was doing everything she knew how to do to keep her son out of trouble.

With so many schools in India shut because of the pandemic, there are many young boys being left alone, without supervision. Their parents work, as do their grandparents sometimes. Other relatives may have their hands full caring for the sick. Young boys, who are normally kept busy with their schoolwork are instead left to their own devices. As might happen anywhere, many do run wild, and there is a widespread fear that many unattended children could get into trouble, or even form into gangs.

The situation is dire for the girls as well. One woman being interviewed for a job, when asked about her children, explained that she had just “married off” her teenaged daughter. She didn’t want to leave her alone in the house. There was no school open for her to go to. By having her married, her mother intended to give her daughter a permanent, secure place in another family.

To prevent these things from happening, the CPRA Foundation works ongoingly, counseling parents, to give children secure, happy lives and good opportunities for the future.

Dr. Nanditha Krishna, President of the CPRA Foundation, writes, “The pandemic has caused great hardship for children in particular, as their best years are drifting past. Many young girls have been married off all over the country.”

When these teenaged girls cannot go to school and are too young to work, their families may seek to give them a secure and stable place with another family through marriage. Sadly, even when this arrangement does give some security, it will usually mean that the girl will have no further education and very few opportunities in life.

The CPRA Foundation is doing a tremendous amount of work through online learning and counseling, to help both girls and boys continue their education and prepare for the times ahead – to get through the hardships of COVID-19 and on to a brighter future.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Pexels.com

Thank you for being our home. Thank you for your sacred beauty.

May your lands be blessed and released from harm. May your oceans and waters be clean and safe for all the beings who live within them. May your forests grow tall, and your wild lands be green and filled with life. May your rocks, cliffs, and sacred mountains tower in majesty.

May your life and your spirit be healed that you may be strong and well – that your children – the birds, the animals, the plants, and all peoples — may live in peace and wellbeing.

May you be freed from oppression, tyranny, and the hand of death that you may be well once more, as nature intended. May the forces of the harmful shadow dwindle, vanish, and be gone – returned to non-existence. May the phantom demons of hate leave – fallen into the abyss, never to return.

May the beauty of your sacred spirit fly in the wind on the wings of birds, run with the swift feet of the four-legged ones, and swing with the gentle, waving branches of the juniper trees.

May all your life and your sacred spirit be blessed, honored, revered, restored, and whole.

May the sun, the moon, and the stars bless you with their radiant light and their presence.

May you rise again in joy, power, and magic, in this age and in the age that is to come.

© Sharon St Joan, 2021

In normal years, to attend the Asia for Animals Conference – which is always lively and dynamic – you’ll need to spend several thousand dollars and around 15 hours flying across the Pacific.

This year however, due to the pandemic, you can stay in your armchair and pay $20 to be part of the virtual two-day AfA Conference – which is a good deal.

Well, it’s really a two-night conference, from the U.S., due to the time differences.

Speakers

Jane Goodall will give the keynote address. Other speakers will be well-known animal activists from China, Nepal, India, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and other Asian countries. The conference will be in English.

The 2021 Conference will be put on jointly by Blue Cross of India and FIAPO (the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations). Dr. Chinny Krishna, one of the founders of these two organizations will give the opening address.

Around twenty sessions and panel discussions will take up highly relevant topics.

One session will focus on building an Asian movement to end live animal markets and the wildlife trade.

A panel discussion on Spirituality and Animal Protection will include Dr. Nanditha Krishna, well-known author of many books on animals, the world of nature, and Hinduism – along with Manoj Gautam from Nepal, Wolf Gordon Clifton of the Animal People Forum, and others. The traditions of many Asian countries go back 5,000 years or longer – so there’s quite a lot to cover.

Jill Robinson, of the Animals Asia Foundation, who has led the struggle to free bears from bear bile farms, will speak about the cat and dog meat trade.

Other sessions will feature – fading out the use of animals in tourism, the role of a plant-based movement, and the role of children in animal rights advocacy. Sessions will also focus on farm animals, wild animals, and companion animals.

Asia for Animal Conferences have been held every year and a half since they began in 2001, twenty years ago, in the Philippines. Animal advocacy in Asia faces challenges – as is the case everywhere in the world. The animal movement in Asia is led by remarkable people, who set an amazing example, marked by a high level of energy, enthusiasm, courage, and perseverance.

You can view the Conference program here: https://www.asiaforanimals.com/conference-2021
Scroll down until you see the schedule. You can see the times in the left margin. “IST” is Indian time.

Time Differences

The time difference between U.S. Mountain time (Utah time) and IST (Indian Standard Time) is 11 and a half hours.

This means that, for U.S. attendees, the conference does not start on April 24, instead it starts this coming Friday – in the evening of April 23, at 10 pm, Utah time – or 12 midnight EST.

To convert Indian time (IST) to Utah time, subtract 11 and a half hours.

If you’re not much of a night owl, you may still want just to stay up for one or two events – or if you’re a morning songbird, you may want to wake up for two or three early morning events, starting at around 5 am. Or, you may be completely captivated and want to watch the entire conference – for all of both nights.

In any case, whatever you can watch, it will be fascinating. It will give you an insight into the dynamic work of Asian animal advocates, who stand up for the animals in Asia – and it will be a lot easier than flying across the Pacific for 15 hours!

How to sign up

Go to this link https://afa2021.eventuresindia.com/register

But first do this: Before registering, you are advised to call your credit card company and notify them that you are about to make a foreign purchase. These days, credit card companies may block your card for making an “unusual” (i.e. foreign) purchase. If you call them in advance, there will be no problem.

Registration for the two-day conference is $20.

Relevance to wild lands

All efforts to save the earth’s animals (both wild and domestic animals – and ourselves too) depend on the continued existence of wild habitat, which means wild lands – which means renewing the earth. We all live on the same earth – one earth.

******

We look forward to seeing you at the AfA Conference this Friday evening!

The two-week old chicks were found on the ground by a kind person. They must have tumbled out of their nest, which was too high up for them to be returned to it.

Last May, right in the middle of the pandemic, they were brought from the city of Bangalore in south India to the nearby Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre.

In spite of it being summer, the little Indian mynas needed to be kept very warm, because small chicks cannot regulate their own temperature. They are dependent on the warmth of their parents, so when they have been orphaned, they need extra warmth. They were put into a very cozy basket so they could cuddle together and were monitored carefully. In the beginning they were handfed. Nestlings need to be fed much more frequently and much greater quantities of food than anyone could imagine. In the wild, this keeps both their parents very busy. Slowly, these chicks started to learn to feed on their own. And, after a while, when they were self-feeding and had grown a bit bigger so they could regulate their own temperature and stay warm enough, they were moved into a slightly larger cage.

Three months later they were moved into an aviary which had double mesh protection to guard against wild predators who might visit at night. Here they began to get practice flying, preparing for their next stage of life and their journey to freedom.

A few months later, they were moved again into a big aviary much like their natural habitat – filled with trees and branches, mud, and there were lots of insects there that they could catch, since insects are their natural diet.

Mynas are native to several Asian countries, including India. Unfortunately, they have been often been captured for the pet trade and subsequently released into the wild into habitats where they do not belong, in countries where they do not naturally exist. Of course, this is not the birds’ fault. Birds should never be captured and taken from the wild, unless they are orphaned or injured and in need of rehabilitation by a trained wildlife rehabilitator, followed by release back to the wild.

After nine months, these beautiful mynas, now strong and healthy, were released at the WRRC center where they are free to come and go as they please at the center itself or in the adjoining woodlands. Now they can live their lives happily in the natural habitat where they are meant to be. Dr. Roopa Satish, the WRRC licensed wildlife rehabilitator, writes, “They love to check up on us from time to time.”

*****

Forest Voices of India

– conducts charitable fundraising services for environmental charities, especially in India.

WRRC – The Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre,
Bangalore, India

– is licensed to treat and release back to the wild – birds, deer, monkeys, and other orphaned or injured wildlife.

– provides education and greater understanding that benefits forests, wildlife, and wildlife habitat.

How you can help

Click on the donate button and choose WRRC. Another great way to help is to send this link to a friend.

Bless you! Thank you for helping our wild friends!

© Forest Voices of India, 2021

Photo credits © WRRC, 2021