Published: 17th June 2019
For this 29-year-old animal activist in Chennai the most important part of animal rescue is release
Shravan Krishnan tells us how he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a wildlife and animal activist and runs his own dispensary now in Chennai
For this 29-year-old animal activist in Chennai, it has been a really early start. Passionate and determined to help animals, Shravan Krishnan started volunteering for the Madras Crocodile Bank when he was in Class V. And since then there has been no looking back. While other children at his age would likely have been watching cartoons, playing with friends, Shravan liked watching Discovery Channel and was also a part of a students group called Students for Sea Turtle Conservation, which he continues to be a part of. "We used to go for turtle walks, collect eggs and keep them in the hatchery or release the offsprings to the ocean. It was all very exciting," Shravan shared while giving us a tour of his animal dispensary.
Started in 2014, the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary is run by Shravan and his team of caretakers, doctors and it houses all kinds of animals such as stray dogs, cats, camel, horse, cattle, donkeys and goats. Sharvan has been running this shelter full-time for the last five years. He feels that in a country like ours where there are 35 per cent stray animals, there are no adequate services to treat them and take care of them. That thought led to the setting up of Hotel for Dogs in 2014, a canine boarding facility that was the first of its kind in Chennai. "Hotel for Dogs was a commercial venture, but my heart was always towards welfare, towards stray animals in our country. So I used to run a small shelter along with the hotel and did whatever I could do to help these strays," says Sharvan. The canine boarding centre also expanded to Bengaluru in November 2015 and both the centres combined have boarded more than 10,000 dogs. The 29-year-old has a dedicated team of 40 people to run the centres, who have learned from his hands-on experience dealing with animals and wildlife. The revenue that is generated from the boarding facility is being used for his rescue work and fighting for animal rights.
Human activities are the biggest threat to animals. Starting from electricity, cell phone towers, roads all affect them. For us to live a luxurious life, the end result is that the animals suffer
Shravan Krishnan, Founder, Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary
Shravan wanted to help more strays and focus on taking care of them with the amount of experience he has gathered since his childhood. "So luckily for me two years ago, the Theosophical Society in Chennai called up and said there was this dispensary right in the heart of the city which was not being used to its full capacity and they didn't know someone who could run it full-time for them. That's when they got in touch with me. It was a very old facility and needed renovation. Since it's centrally located and an extremely peaceful place, I thought I could help them out in a way where I could, in turn, help so many other animals as well. I was really thankful as they gave me a free hand to do what I wanted to with the facility," Shravan recalls.
The first thing that they did to the dispensary was with the help of a lot of donations - friends came forward donated and they were able to rebuild the facility, says Shravan. "We hired professionals, now we have full-time veterinarians, we have 15 caretakers, we got new types of equipment, we have made it into a fully functional rescue centre. We also had a lot of people who came and donated, we also had a couple of crowdfunding initiatives going on and the Theosophical Society was kind enough to lend their animal welfare fund towards the dispensary. Now we have a large animal facility that we built this year, it's been very active," he adds.
Fighting for animal rights: Shravan wanted to help more strays and focus on taking care of them with the amount of experience he has gathered since his childhood
Shravan and his team at the dispensary also conducts an animal birth control programme where in a year they operate between 800 to 1000 dogs at least. Apart from that, they get numerous rescue calls every day for dogs which have been hit by vehicles, ones that have maggot wounds, tumours, etc. They bring them at the dispensary and treat them then either release them back or there are some who can't be released back and they become their permanent in house animals.
"We are one of the only few centres in India where we actually fix the legs if it's broken. We have tied up with an orthopeadic doctor who is an expert who helps us with that. In other places, they generally put a bandage to fix the leg, but here we put plates, pins so that the dog gets maximum recovery instead of amputating. We have started this programme from October last year and in the past six months, we have operated on more than 50 dogs," explains Shravan.
Currently, the dispensary houses close to 120 animals, including camels, pigs, cattle, donkeys and goats. They also help in wildlife rescues along with the forest department, but they don't keep them here at the dispensary. They treat them and give them back to the forest officials or release them back. Sharvan has dealt with snakes, monkeys, deers and wild birds in almost 13 years that he has been working in this field. "We also have an active outpatient unit where we charge a very nominal fee for people who can't afford private clinics for their animals, sometimes do it for free as well," he adds.
Shravan and his team had also been a major part of rescuing animals during the horrific Kerala floods last year. Shravan adds that they had also helped during Chennai floods, and have saved animals from Kaziranga Sanctuary during the Assam floods earlier.
The animal activist has received a lot of recognition for his efforts and he says that it's "always good to have people appreciate you for your work. But I would say it's not just me alone, there's a big team behind me who are integral to the whole process — family, friends, doctors, caretakers, to everyone who's been there, the credit goes to everyone."
He does not have future plans as such but he wants to make this city safer for animals. "We want to try and build a rescue centre for the wildlife which is lacking in the city, we are already in talks with the forest department for that. We also want to have more ambulances, do more on-site treatments and animal birth control programmes," he concludes.