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  who's who >> Nilesh Bhanage


NGO plans animal welfare centre

The first time Nilesh Bhanage tried rescuing a pigeon he failed, but that was seven years ago. today he runs the Plant and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a full-fledged animal welfare organisation.

“My younger brother and I found a pigeon that was being pecked blind; we rescued him but couldn’t save him.

"He died a few days later. I felt really bad, but was determined not to let this happen again and decided to help injured animals,” says Bhanage, who contacted a friend working with another animal welfare organisation to learn how to handle animals.

“I also trained with SPCA and learnt about the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme. By 1999 I was actively involved in activities like sterilisation, vaccination and looking after injured animals in Dombivli and Kalyan,” says Bhanage, who started PAWS in Jan 2001 after writing to RSPCA (UK) and Animal Welfare Board of India for recognition.

One of the rescued lion cubs from the Grand National circus
Though PAWS doesn’t have an office yet, Bhanage works from Dombivli and has managed to procure two vans that double as mobile ambulances and are a regular sight around Thane, Kalwa and Dombivli.

“We started the first animal ambulance in Thane. I also managed to start a pigeon shelter in Dombivli that is home to 40 pigeons.

“My volunteers and I have also trained under a snake expert and have conducted many snake raids on Nag Panchami and Mahashivratri along with the wildlife department,” says Bhanage, who sends the snakes to Borivli National Park for rehabilitation.

“We also treat big and small animals and take severely injured animals to animal shelters like IDA in Deonar, Wagle Estate in Thane or the SPCA and also transport stray dogs for sterilisation.

“We make regular trips to the police station to register FIRs against people who treat animals cruelly. But some people expect us to rush to every spot for animal emergency; they must realise that we can’t do that every time as we have limited resources,” says Bhanage, who has four vets on his team of 40 PAWS members now.

Though the organisation is not flush with funds, members manage by volunteering their time. “We try to pay our vets some nominal amount and get medicines from Maneka Gandhi who writes to pharmaceutical companies on our behalf.

Now, we also have celebrities like Ruby Bhatia, Anju Mahendru and John Abraham who support us,” says Bhanage who works as a personal assistant in a company during the week and dedicates his weekends and evenings to animal welfare work.

“We are a small organisation but someday we hope to have a full-fledged animal welfare centre,” says the 24-year-old animal lover, who also writes articles for promoting vegetarianism.

Next on the agenda is the rabies vaccination camp that has been organised by PAWS in Airoli this Sunday.

“My Sundays are dedicated to meetings with members and other animal welfare organisations,” says Bhanage, who otherwise spends time at home with his pet rabbit Bantu, whom he had rescued from a slaughter house.

How to join PAWS

"Volunteers will have to train with us for a few months before we make them members. The main criteria is love for animals," says Bhanage. For enquiries call Nilesh Bhanage on 9820161114 or Anuradha on 25372651

Other PAW achievements

Started Thane district's first ambulance service for Animals
Successful involvement of young people
Closing down illegal bird market in Kalyan
Stopping Snake Charming & Parrot Astrology in Thane district
Rescuing Lions & Tigers from Circus