India Interior

Devoted to desert denizens

N Shiva Kumar | Updated on November 30, 2018 Published on November 30, 2018

Help at hand Peera Ram Bishnoi feeding a young female Nilgai which was brought injured to his centre Photos: N Shiva Kumar   -  N Shiva Kumar

Meet Peera Ram Bishnoi, the mechanic who became an animal saviour

The national highway is a killer, responsible for frequent road deaths of wildlife, says 50-year-old Peera Ram Bishnoi of Rajasthan. Chinkara deer, Nilgai antelopes, desert foxes, desert cats and civets — these are some of the animals that are killed while crossing the road, knocked down by fast-moving vehicles, mostly during the night, he says.

Those that die on the spot are, in a sense, fortunate, others might suffer immense pain followed by a slow death with nobody at hand to provide help. Increase in road construction and vehicular traffic has seen an upswing in road hits and killing of animals.

“I see many such incidents as my kiosk (for tyre repair and such automotive works) is situated alongside the National Highway No. 15, near the villages of Deora and Dhamana, in the dry district of Jalore of western Rajasthan,” says Peera Ram.

Initially Peera Ram felt helpless, watching wildlife getting injured or maimed on a regular basis. But things changed one day, when he saw a fast-moving motorcycle hit a Chinkara gazelle. The motorcyclist, too, fell on the road. Peera Ram rushed to help, along with his wife, who lifted the deer gently in her arms.

Both man and deer were attended to and soon the man went his way. But the deer, which was limping, refused to return to the wild. Instead, it followed the couple to their home and eventually became a part of their family. Moved by this experience, the couple felt they had found their calling — creating a care centre for incapacitated animals.

At first, they erected a small enclosure to tend to injured animals with home remedies, with the aim of getting them back on their feet. But many animals died of shock, severe wounds, lack of adequate medical care and timely medicines, as the nearest animal hospital was more than 100 km away.

Gentle does it Daughter-in-law and mother-in-law team coaxing a fawn to drink milk

 

Nevertheless, slowly but surely, Peera Ram, effectively assisted by his wife Parvati Devi, his sons Sunil and Kamlesh and daughter-in-law Santhoshi, managed to run the small centre with some measure of success. Antelopes, deer, birds like peacock, owl, even demoiselle crane and pelican, were nurtured with loving care until they recovered. Fellow villagers Heeralal, Ramlal and Rajuram, seeing Peera Ram’s dedication, also started helping out regularly.

Hand of destiny?

But how did Peera Ram, a former Central Reserve Police Force employee, happen to run an auto repair kiosk on the highway, which led eventually to the setting up of the animal care centre? One could put it down to Providence.

Peera Ram, who hailed from a rural region in Rajasthan, was initially working with the CRPF but resigned from his job because of frequent postings across the country. When he turned 30, he started his own automobile kiosk, offering services such as tyre-treading, puncture repair, etc, on the highway near his home. He did not make make much money. Young and restless, he also started some minor farming on his ancestral land that was lying fallow. He also grew indigenous trees and maintained cows for milk, mulch and manure for his family needs.

By the time he turned 40, he had seen quite a lot from his kiosk — the drastic dwindling of wildlife due to rampant poaching, drought conditions and road kills. There was also the threat posed by ferocious feral dogs that hunted wildlife, and by poachers hunting on the sly. Just when he was feeling overwhelmed and helpless, the motorbike accident on the highway involving the Chinkara gazelle happened. That moment, as he rushed to help, changed his life forever and led to the setting up of the care centre.

Formal training

Gradually, Peera Ram gained popularity in the surrounding villages for his devoted care of wildlife. However, there were those who questioned his credentials for treating endangered species without being a qualified vet. Fortunately, at that juncture, Jugal Kishore Gajja, a District forest officer, became aware of the work Peera Ram was doing, and his commitment, and recommended his name for a veterinarian course.

Jodhpur zoo authorities promptly recruited Peera Ram to learn treatment methods to make him a skilful animal healer. Qualified veterinarians SS Rathore and H Joshi of the wildlife clinic at Jodhpur zoo were all praise for Peera Ram as they observed his pragmatic approach and acumen in interpreting injuries suffered by wild animals.

Injured deer frolicking in the open enclosure after being treated for injuries caused by road accidents

 

Peera Ram became an expert in administration of veterinary drug doses and techniques of mini surgeries and, in due course, was given a certificate for working as an animal doctor.

Recognising Peera Ram’s passion for wildlife protection, the forest department allotted a plot of wasteland in October 2013 where he could treat wounded animals. The forest officials were more than eager to help him because there was no entity in the region to take up wildlife issues.

Resourcefully Peera Ram created an uncomplicated ecological recoup centre with chain-link fence to prevent the entry of stray dogs, sunshades to keep off the harsh desert sun, and a water pond.

Recently Peera Ram constituted a society named Shri Jambeshwar Jeev Raksha Pradesh Sansthan in Rajasthan to help with donations. The society has about 2,000 members from Rajasthan who now lend a helping hand in protecting wildlife. The expenditure for food, fodder, medicines and water tankers is met by various donors to support the daily upkeep of the open-air, ecologically friendly haven for wild animals.

Today, at the age of 50, Peera Ram is a satisfied man as he has been awarded on several platforms and applauded through certificates, and sponsorship of veterinary medical training.

A recent prestigious honour was the RBS “Save the Species” award given away by the Vice-President of India on October 30, 2018, for protecting endangered species and resolving man-animal conflict.

 

Over the last 10 years, Peera Ram has rescued 1,170 wild creatures and nurtured 7,200 trees that are essential for the ecological desert terrain. His future plans are to create a large wildlife sanctuary where wildlife can thrive in harmony with nature, with minimal man-animal conflict.

The writer is a wildlife enthusiast and photographer based in Noida

Published on November 30, 2018
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