The future of the Wild Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Katraj also known as Katraj Animal Orphanage seems uncertain currently due to the issues with its management and the cost of its operations. Though the centre, built on the land owned by PMC, has so far been funded jointly by the Indian Herpetological Society (IHS) and Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), now both the bodies are of the opinion that it should be funded by the state forest department. The centre is run by Neelimkumar Khaire, the founder, on his on 2.5-acre land adjacent to Rajiv Gandhi Zoo.
“Though so far we have funded the animal centre, it is not our responsibility but that of the forest department. The discussions are going on for shifting the centre, but the decision is yet to be taken. Once the forest department takes over, it (centre) will get shifted to forest department’s land,” said Ashok Ghorpade, garden superintendent, PMC.
The rescue centre was started by IHS on a small scale in 1992.
Though initially the members rescued just birds, gradually the centre started rehabilitating all types of rescued animals. Around 12 years ago, an MoU was signed between Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and IHS wherein the total annual cost of running the centre (which included feeding, salaries, maintenance, medicines, etc) was to be divided equally between the PMC and IHS. IHS has been raising the funds through their own resources with no financial contribution from forest department. Most animals are rescued and admitted by forest department. These animals are released or rehabilitated back into the wild with prior permission of the forest department.
“Our main intention is to serve the animals. So far, we have got good support from both PMC as well as forest department. However, given that most rescued animals are wild and from forests, we feel it should be funded by the forest department,” said Anil Khaire, in-charge of the CSR, capacity building, training & research at IHS.
Every year, nearly 1,500 animals are rescued, treated and released by the centre. The facilities at the centre include quarantine ward, neonatal ward, hospital, OT, X-ray, squeeze cages, post-operative ward, animal rescue van, tranquiliser equipments and 80-plus animal holding cages. The IHS was established in 1984 by eminent scientists, researchers and social activists to promote the conservation of herpetofauna in India. Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Though initially the society’s work was limited to herpetology, it has been actively working for conservation of the wild heritage for the past many years.
In the entire western region of Maharashtra, the Katraj Rescue Centre is the only one of its kind. While Junnar also has a rescue centre, it houses only rescued leopards. “The PMC’s contribution for this financial year was Rs 50 lakh and the same amount was to be raised by IHS. As per my knowledge, for the last two years, IHS has not been able to raise enough funds due to bad market conditions. Hence, due to non-compliance of conditions laid down in the MoU by PMC, there is a possibility of termination of the said contract and the orphanage may have to be closed down,” said Anuj Khaire, honorary wildlife warden, Pune.
However, Anil Khaire said that though IHS has been finding it difficult to run the show financially, it has been able to pull through so far. Vivek Khandekar, Chief Conservator of Forests, said, “Not all animals that come to the rescue centre are wild. Equal number of animals are brought from municipal units also. Forest department needs some time to erect alternate facility and it can’t be made overnight. One possibility we are looking at is shifting the centre to Pachgaon Parvati.” A meeting with all the stakeholders is expected to take place on July 10.