In a wildlife rescue operation, the first ever of its kind in India, two Delhi-based NGOs—Wildlife SOS and Friendicoes SECA –airlifted and flew to safety a mule stranded on a rock surrounded by swirling flood waters of Mandikini river in Sonprayag for over past three weeks. The helicopter in which the mule was airlifted belonged to a private company Summit Aviation which was bravely piloted by Captain Bhupender Singh, and co-piloted by Captain Angad from Bangalore. The pilot said, “Landing the helicopter near the agitated mule on a small rock surrounded by swirling and surging flood water was risky and a real challenge, but it was worth saving a life.”
Earlier, these wildlife NGOs were roped in by the central government agencies to undertake the rescue works of several hundred mules and horses stranded in flood ravaged Gauri Kund and Rambara near Kedarnath Temple. Hundreds of other horses and mules meant to ferry Kedarnath pilgrims were swept away by the flash floods along with their owners and pilgrims. The horses and mule owners have already escaped from the places to save their own lives leaving behind the helpless horses and mules in the flood-ravaged places amid human bodies and carcasses strewn all over. Geeta Seshamani, Vice President Friendicoes SECA said, a veterinary doctor Akhilesh from Friendicoes SECA led the rescue operation, who said, “We were dropped off by the helicopter on the rock where other small rocks were tumbling down from the mountainside all around us under pressure of tumbling water from a height. I used a mixture of xylazine and ketamine to tranquilise the 200 kilo mule, and secured the animal so that it would not move inside the flying helicopter. Then, the pilot and co-pilot helped us load the sedated mule into the helicopter. We used every bit of strength in our body to lift the sleeping mule into the helicopter.” Then the helicopter flew the animal to a large green pasture’s safty. Captain Bhupender Singh and Capt. Angad said later, “We’re delighted that the mule stranded there for past three weeks had been rescued.” Presence of the NGOs Wildlife SOS and Friendicoes SECA’s disaster relief team in the area has come as a great benefit to the agitated mule whose life was endangered by the flood water.” It was very disappointing that the state government which had failed to take care even of the human beings, was even more insensitive in providing help to the stranded animals in the area, the pilots said.
Wildlife SOS and Friendicoes SECA have sent to the region two disaster relief teams to provide medical aid to the distressed and stranded animals. These teams consisted of veterinary doctors, para-vets with equine expertise, farriers and emergency drivers. Their aim was to provide medical aid to the distressed animals and fodder to the stranded ones. Chairman Animal Welfare Board of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Maj. Gen RM Kharb was also involved in the operation who took care that besides the domestic animals, no wild animal suffers distress or annihilation due to the flood related disaster. —AK