Urban Wildlife

Interview with Pawan Sharma, founder of the urban animal rescue NGO called Resqink

Print edition : September 10, 2021

Pawan Sharma: “Urban wildlife is facing a lot of threats due to uncontrolled development.” Photo: Photograph: Courtesy of RAWW

Interview with Pawan Sharma, founder of Resqink.

Twenty-nine-year-old Pawan Sharma is the founder and driving force behind Resqink, or Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW). An advocate by profession and a graduate in journalism and mass communications, he has chosen to make his passion his profession. He practices law and uses his knowledge of it for animal advocacy.

Resqink is an unusual name. What does it mean?

Resqink is pronounced rescue ink. Rescue means the act of rescuing [those] in distress and ink means the blood that flows within our systems. Together they mean that the act and feeling of rescuing someone in distress is something that flows within our system. It was during my college days that I coined this term and started a group of like-minded individuals who were interested in serving wildlife. That was around 2010. In 2012, when I was around 20 years old, I decided to register Resqink as an NGO [non-governmental organisation] called RAWW so as to work in a more organised way.

How much demand is there for wildlife rescue in urban areas?

Just between January to March this year, there were more than 285 rescues. Apart from this, 70 star tortoises were repatriated to the wild, 10 orphaned baby parakeets and 6 baby bonnet macaques were hand-reared. More than 80 wild birds and more than 20 red sand boas, which were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, were rehabilitated.

On an average we get about 70 to 100 calls per week. In summer this increases to 100 to 150 because of dehydration cases and in the monsoon because of displacement due to extreme weather.

How did you get into wildlife rescue?

I used to rescue animals in my schooldays and had quite a few pets. I was fascinated by the non-human living beings which shared space with us. At the age of 13, I rescued a snake from my own backyard that had killed one of our community kittens, which were fed and taken care of by me and my family. The snake was supposed to be found and eliminated, which was quite a common thing that used to be done. I, however, felt that they were a part of society and deserved to live. All that had happened was quite a natural act, and the reptile had not harmed any human; being a predator, it killed and ate the small kitten. It was quite sad to lose the kitten, but I had a fair idea of the food chain.

I lived in the suburb of Mulund, which shares space with the forests of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. There was a lot of flora and fauna in and around the suburb and instances of wildlife interactions and conflicts were quite common. The first snake rescue boosted my confidence and I thought of rescuing more [animals] in the future, and that is how I was then known in my area for rescuing reptiles, birds and [other] animals.

How did people react to this? Was there opposition?

The journey was not easy as these things were not accepted, and I did face a lot of opposition and demotivation from society as well as some family members. However, I continued to feed my passion by staying focussed. Then, as years passed, I did rescue a lot of snakes and [other] reptiles, but there was always a section of people who had to resist. As I grew up, I started rescuing more [animals], and people started saying more and more things about me. They went to the extent of saying that I may get involved in illegal activities like smuggling snakes and selling their venom or may one day die of a snakebite, and so on.

Honorary Wildlife Warden

When I turned 18, I reached out to the Forest Department and started registering all my rescues with them and also volunteering at the department during wildlife rescue or conflict situations. This continued for years, and in 2017, at the age of 25, I was appointed Honorary Wildlife Warden owing to the extensive rescue, awareness and conservation work [I had done] with the Forest Department. Initially, I had been made an Honorary Animal Welfare Officer by the State government

When one works in a particular field, one sees the inadequacies in it. What changes would you like to see?

We’ve been doing this for more than a decade [now] and from knowing almost nothing to knowing quite a lot and learning every day, we are in the process of progress as an organisation.

However, overall, there are a lot of issues that need to be improvised, addressed and looked into, which I am sure will happen gradually. Urban wildlife is facing a lot of threats due to uncontrolled development. People need to understand that every single act counts, right from using electricity and water appropriately to generating less waste and its proper disposal.

The real standard of our living should be judged outside our houses: our environment and wildlife are the real indicators of it. Welfare and conservation are two different things, and as a society we are still too immature to handle and manage our wildlife conflicts and find ways to mitigate them. There is a serious need for not just NGOs or government departments but all important stakeholders and citizens to join this movement and participate. And, most importantly, support local NGOs as much as possible in whatever possible ways one can.

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