Mangalore, April, 28: The bonding between man and animals is unexplainable. The dumb creatures can offer more love and comfort to man in the course striking an inseparable bonding between the two. But as civilization has progressed, animals have been subject to cruelty and harassment and there have emerged in the picture several animal care organizations which have been striving to prevent cruelty on animals. Though it is an organized effort in most cases, we rarely find a singular effort by any individual in this direction.
But a man from Saligrama in the neighbouring Udupi district has proved that provided one has the will-power, determination and immense love for animals, he can protect and take care of nature’s exotic creations, through singular efforts. He is Sudhindra Aithal. This frail looking, 36 year old youth has come a long way in his career which is solely restricted to animal care and protection. He has faced innumerous hurdles in his path; but he has faced all the odds with determination and is still pursuing his profession of animal care with great perseverance.
Sudhindra Aithal’s unique animal home is located adjacent to the Sri Guru Narasimha Temple at Saligrama. It’s named Shree Animal Rescue Centre, a registered body. His animal home houses a number of animals and birds, right from the Persian cat, horse, donkey to the peacock, deer, porcupine and pigeon.
It is Aithal’s sheer love for the animals that has made him take care of these animals and birds, most of which he found injured.
The birds and animals which have grown under his loving care, in the process have developed an innate bonding with their master who showers a father-like affection on them. Says Sudhindra, “Today these animals and birds are so attached to me that, even if I let them out from their cages, they return to me. They do not want to go elsewhere.” That explains the bonding.
Sudhindra Aithal explains how he has taken care of an injured eagle that was unable to fly and has given shelter to it in his home. Similarly, he has a cow which he has fondly named Eshwari.Aithal recalls how he rescued the genderless poor animal from the clutches of the slaughterers and has taken care of it.
He even has a fox in his animal home. Aithal says when he found the fox; it was suffering from a skin ailment making it look ugly. “I took care of it and gave it the necessary treatment and today it is well and lively,” he says proudly. He also has a younger one of a fox which he says was found abandoned. He reared it by feeding it with rice and milk. Then there is a donkey Lakshmi, which Aithal found with a broken leg. Today Lakshmi is able to walk and is a part of the Aithal household.
Sudhindra Aithal in fact had developed a strong liking for animals since a very young age.” I loved animals more than my studies,” recalls Aithal and explains how he used to hide injured squirrels and rats which he found on way to school, in his pocket, take it home and then treat it.
“Everyone rebuked me saying don’t study, just take care of animals,” Aithal recalls and smiles when he says he just did the latter. He had his primary education at Chitrapady School and later joined Kota High School but soon bade good bye to education.
Since then animals became his best friends. People on knowing about him began bringing injured animals and entrusted them to his care. Thus started his animal care profession with great dedication.
Aithal who is a strict vegetarian says he however serves meat only to those animals which feed just on flesh and serves rice, milk, bread or vegetables to the rest of his animal friends which have adjusted to his food habits. He says one of the fox with him is so adjusted to his food habits that it would not even touch meat if given.
His animal home has a deer named Rama and a stag named Bhadra. One can even see the guinea pigs and rats living together in perfect harmony in his home. He even rears injured squirrels and has wild cats and a Persian cat among his collection.
Aithal also has a large collection of dogs of different breeds. A dog named Chinnu of the Pug breed is his favourite .He has another dog named Tiger which is five years old and is fed with milk, rice and ragi products only. Aithal proudly says how his ‘Tiger’ was declared a champion at an agricultural festival and even honoured by Dharmasthala Dharmadhikari D Veerendra Heggade.
But what about the cost factor of taking care of so many animals? Aithal is also engaged in dairy farming and the income procured from selling milk helps him sustain a livelihood and take care of his animal friends. He even helps promote breeding of dogs and cats and sells it to people who need the younger ones as a pet. This is also one of the sources of his income, which helps him maintain his home.
Today one can see several people coming to his home to watch these animals and shower affection on them. There are even visitors who voluntarily offer food to the birds and animals, as a kind gesture and in appreciation for Aithal’s commendable works.
Aithal says he will carry on with his good work and continue to take care of them with great love, throughout his life. He lives along with his mother who wants her son to marry and settle down in life. But, Aithal just smiles when asked if he has any plans to marry. He is worried if the woman he weds fails to adjust to his way of living along with his loved animals. He says he will definitely marry if he finds a girl who is willing to go along with him and lend a helping hand and stands as his backbone in his animal care works.
Today, Aithal is a contented man. He is living a peaceful and quiet life along with his pet animals and finds great pleasure and relief in taking care of them. Men like him are rare. The society needs to encourage people like Aithal who wholeheartedly take care of the animals and birds which man many a times tends to neglect.
“Don’t kill animals; don’t neglect injured animals, Let us try to save animals. They too have a right to live on this earth like us humans,” this is Aithal’s sincere plea to everyone.n
Smitha - Here she is
She is Smitha, a female monkey in Aithal’s animal care home. Aithal has a very interesting story to tell about Smitha. He says he took care of a motherless Smitha who he later on found was very fond of gold. “I got two ear rings done for her and she was extremely pleased about it,” explains Aithal. But, it so happened that one of the visitors to the place, played a prank on her and tore off her ear to rob one of her ear rings, causing much pain to her. “Since then she is afraid of strangers and fears they have come to steal he ear rings,” Aithal says adding whenever she saw a stranger, Smitha makes it a point to carefully cover her head and ears with a piece of cloth to protect her ear rings.
The Painful Moment
Aithal has had his share of agony when forest officials raided his house in October 2005 and seized 53 birds and 27 wild animals including some endangered species including a Lion-tailed Macaque, Mouse Deer, Rock Python, White Bellied Sea Eagles, yellow legged green pigeon, Indian fox, large cormorants, pond heron, pea fowl, spotted owls, rock python, porcupine, Nilgiri langur, barn owls, palm civet, sambar, green barbet and soft shelled turtle. Police had even registered a criminal case against Aithal for holding wild life in his premises, under the Wild Life Protection Act and also under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Most of the seized animals were sent to the rehabilitation centre of Mysore zoo.
The incident had virtually shaken Aithal and left him ill and took some time for him to recover. He claims he has only taken care of injured animals and used to leave them in the forests and that he took care of only those animals which were unwilling to return. He even claims forest staff too used to refer injured animals to him which however was denied by forest official during the raid. Aithal says with pain that most of the animals seized from his home have died due to lack of care.