Published: 15th October 2021
How these MCC students are working to solve the deer-dog conflict without harming anyone
Smrithi Wilson and Karthik, two BSc Zoology students, have started a Wildlife Conservation Club along with PFCI
The campus of Madras Christian College is a haven for deers, dogs and a lot of other animals. If you walk by the campus and a friendly stray wags his tail and comes to you, you may not want to shy away from petting him. Smrithi Wilson tells us how the humans who reside there and the dogs have quite an amicable relationship. "A lot of them feed the dogs and the dogs know which hostel to go to and at what time in order to get food," says the BSc Zoology student, who has adopted a stray from the campus herself.
However, the many lockdowns have changed it all for them. The college campus was almost empty, with most of the students vacating the hostels and going back home. "This was quite hard for the dogs. Desperate for food, even the friendly ones started ganging up with the feral dogs to form packs and attack the deer population on campus," says Smrithi. This definitely was a situation that had to be tackled, she says. That was when Smrithi's batch was asked to develop a project on animal behaviour. Along with her classmate Karthik, she came up with the idea of starting a wildlife conservation club and a project to reduce the deer-dog conflict, without harming either.
"This a three-part project. For the first part, we approached the NGO People For Cattle India (PFCI) and conducted an event on October 11 on campus. As part of this, we vaccinated 20 dogs on that day. Even a few faculty had brought their dogs to the drive to get them vaccinated," says Smrithi. The Wildlife Conservation Club was officially inaugurated on the same day. It now has around 30 student volunteers.
Students with the strays in MCC
The second part for the members of the club is to befriend the feral dogs. "This is quite important. We can't randomly catch dogs, vaccinate and spay/neuter them. So, we are now working on befriending the feral dog population by feeding them. This set of dogs will be vaccinated after that. The dogs must also have a good platelet count before we perform the surgery," says the 19-year-old.
The final step is carrying out the Animal Birth Control programme to control the dog population. "Here, we will get professional dog catchers to catch these dogs and spay/neuter them. Post this, we will not clip their ears, but rather put collars with reflectors on them. We are getting those collars stitched in the college's stitching unit," she says.
Smrithi and Karthik had initially pitched this project to the members of the college's Ideation Club a few months ago. "This was well received. We also got to fine-tune the idea properly there. Later, we had pitched it to a few investors, who gave us a small funding too. At that point, we were sure that we had to implement it properly," she says.
The project doesn't stop here, by the way. There is much more in the pipeline. Smrithi tells us about it. "The southern part of Chennai doesn't really have a lot of good pet clinics or grooming centres. I remember how I had to take my dogs to Besant Nagar to get their treatments done. So, the plan here is to start a pet clinic, a grooming centre, a pet shop and a boarding house in order to generate revenue to get this project running," she says. In the long run, they are also planning to start a shelter for malnourished and rescued dogs and to train the dogs to guard the campus. "We have also proposed to change the vegetation pattern of the college campus in such a way that the dog and the deer use separate paths to travel. This can reduce conflict a lot," she says.
Lauding the students for the initiative, the college's principal Paul Wilson says that the talks are underway to integrate this project to the academic curriculum too. "This project took off so well that students from all other departments too have collaborated in making this a success. The students from the Statistics department are helping with data mapping and the Botany department is working on changing the vegetation pattern to avoid animal conflict," he says.