Rescuer-at-large,for a chargehttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/rescueratlarge-for-a-charge/

Rescuer-at-large,for a charge

As a child,Vishal Kolekar would tag along with anybody who was going to rescue animals in distress.

As a child,Vishal Kolekar would tag along with anybody who was going to rescue animals in distress. For the past 10 years,the 26-year-old’s hobby has been what most people would consider a little strange — rescuing animals and birds from the city and releasing them into their natural habitats.

His is a three-member team,all of whom hail from Vasai. It was only 15 days back that these three men rescued six newborn owls abandoned atop a bungalow. The owner of the house wanted to kill the baby owls as he believed that the presence of owls is a bad omen. Besides rescuing animals and birds,Kolekar has rescued 400 snakes so far.

A resident of Papdi village in Vasai west,Kolekar learnt to handle animals by observing other people rescue them when he was a child. “Animals become aggressive when they are injured. It becomes difficult to rescue them. Last week,we rescued an injured barn owl which was being attacked by pigeons and crows inside the Vasai Panchayat Samiti office. We took the owl to a veterinary. After giving it medication for three days,we released it in the wildlife sanctuary at Tungareshwar,” said Kolekar.

Kolekar and his other two friends are just a phone call away from people. “Many people call us when they spot a snake in their house. We tell them to keep an eye on it till we reach the house. Snakes have a tendency to hide under beds or in the almirah. They too are scared of humans as we are of animals,” said Kolekar.

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“We rescue at least one animal or bird a month. During Diwali,an eagle fell unconscious in our area. I brought it home and tended to it. It nibbled on tomatoes. Six owl kids were also brought home. We named them after Bollywood stars. While the big bully has been named SRK,we call the tiniest one KRK,he said.

“Another one who pecked at my right finger has been named Sunny due to his aggressive behaviour,” Kolekar added.

Initially Kolekar and his teammates rescued these animals for free. However,during one of the rescue operations three months back,his teammate Hemant Pawar was bit by a cobra. A plumber by profession,Kolekar was unable to fetch Rs 1.5 lakh — the cost of Pawar’s medication. Now,the team charges Rs 500 per rescue operation to repay the loan taken for Pawar’s treatment.

megha.sood@expressindia.com