Nilesh Bhanage – Plants & Animals Welfare Society

© Nilesh Bhanage

Nilesh Bhanage is the founder of Plants & Animals Welfare Society (PAWS), a well known charity establishment in India that protects wildlife and provides medical help to stray animals. PAWS appeared in Limca Book of Records as “India’s Youngest Animal Rehabilitation Team” in 2005. Today PAWS boosts more then 200 active volunteers for various activities like fundraising, Rescue, Wildlife Rehabilitation, Publicity and Education & Awareness.

Interview by Stephen Thompson, Ph.D. 

Welcome to OpenBeast. Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I am founder of PAWS & currently work as CEO of PAWS.  On below positions, I worked over the years in animal welfare & wildlife rescues over the years
1. Hony. Animal Welfare Officer – Govt. of India since July 2002 till 2007
2. Member of Animal Birth Control Committee – Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation.
3. Hony. Animal Welfare Officer – ‘Animal Welfare Board of India’ since 1999 also Hony. Animal Welfare Officer from Committee to supervise Animal Laws in Maharashtra, Mumbai High Court.
4. Member of “People for Animals” – India’s largest charity for Animal Welfare.
5. Started Animal Welfare work at the age of 18.
6. Founder Trustee of “Plant & Animals Welfare Society” – PAWS, a charity established in Thane Dist. to protect wildlife and provide medical help to stray animals.
7. Founder member of Thane SPCA & Trustee till April 2007.
8. Nominee for Animal Experimentation Committee in New Bombay
9. Founder Trustee of New Bombay Animal Lovers Association.
10. Attended “Asia for Animals Conference” in Singapore 2005, Chennai 2007 & Bali 2008, Singapore 2010 representing PAWS. Was speaker at 2010 conference & also conducted workshop on ‘Working with Volunteers’. Also attended first India for Animals Conference 2011 held in Chennai.
11. Received Certificate of Recognition from president of PETA, Ms. Ingrid Newkirk in February 2007.
12. Actively involved with NSS and Social Work during college years.
13. Over a decade year experience in “Snake rescue & Wildlife rescue” and Rehab.
 14. Executive to first Managing committee of ‘Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations’ (FIAPO) on communications & Outreach.

What made Nilesh to start PAWS?

PAWS (Plant and Animals Welfare Society), was founded in 2001 by the young and dynamic Nilesh Bhanage and his college friends. However the journey began three years earlier in 1998, when Nilesh first saw an injured pigeon on his rooftop, his eye was hurt and crows were attacking that helpless pigeon. Nilesh and his friends intervened and rescued that pigeon, but even then they were clueless on how to treat that bird or the nearest place where they could take it to where it could be treated. It was then that Nilesh’s eldest cousin brother who runs a Photo Studio shared with him the details of a young lady named Anamika who used to come to this photo studio to get her photographs featuring animals developed from here. Following this, Nilesh decided to take that pigeon to Anamika’s place and that was the beginning of a new chapter in Nilesh’s life and in the life of many animals in need in and around Dombivili. Nilesh shared that, “Anamika was the one who taught me first aid for animals. The other lady that I am inspired by is Goodicia Vaidya who is now the Vice President of In Defence of Animals-Mumbai and who in 1998-99 used to drive an Animal Ambulance from Dombivli to Mahalaxmi,  distance of 90 kms one way and back every day tirelessly helping rescue animals in need”. PAWS was formally registered in 2001 and it got a lease of life when Ahmednagar SPCA donated its ambulance to PAWS in the first formal year of its operations.

So what kind of animals PAWS handle and what services you provide?
PAWS volunteers and trustees personally go on road to treat all types of injured animals. Some cases are referred back to the vets the next day. They remove maggots from wounds and treat animals. PAWS also arranges different first aid camps for all types of animals and also hold lectures to teach first aid to college and school students, its young volunteers. PAWS have rescued many animals like snakes, mongoose and parakeets, myna, Owls, horse shoe crabs, monitor lizards from cruel charmers and illegal sellers. PAWS every year confiscates many such animals, gives treatment, release them back into wild and obtain acknowledgement from wildlife dept. Officials started snake rescue helpline which caters 24hours for cities of Dombivli and Kalyan and nearly 300 reptiles were rescued and rehabilitated each year. PAWS holds regulars camps in slums and village areas for vaccination of bullocks, donkeys which are employed for work. It also holds first aid and medical check up camps. Members regularly care and rehabilitate disowned cattle a major problem in the city at Pinjrapole (cattle shelters), after treating them at Bombay SPCA. Innumerable homeless and abandoned animals have been re-homed through our adoption scheme. Adoption is done after strict interviews and home checks.

Talk to us about your team?

Today, animal welfare in Thane district has reached to a degree where people have started looking up to NGOs for helping an injured animal. All thanks to the Plants & Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) who acted as the guardians of animals and made this day possible where one phone call to the PAWS helpline number takes care of all your problems. The situation was not the same when PAWS started as a young NGO giving first aid to injured animals on the streets. At then PAWS did not have an ambulance, but few dedicated members took on their bikes and the first aid box to avail help for the injured animals on the streets. Time passed by and today PAWS boasts of having a couple of full-fledged ambulances serving to the needs of helpless animals. It’s no longer the same old PAWS. It has evolved to a degree where one can clearly say it has been a revolution, a certain youth movement where volunteers kept joining in the service of animals and the total number has surpassed beyond 300 and it’s increasing every single day. PAWS – a young NGO that was always determined to stand on its feet in spite of all the hard times. That’s the history of PAWS.

PAWS has a network of 300 registered members connected via a google group and off these about fifty are dedicated volunteers who take turns to contribute their skills, be it rescuing all kinds of birds and animals, administering them first aid, designing brochures and other awareness literature and hosting fundraisers and awareness events etc. PAWS looks after its volunteers by administering them preventive anti-rabies and tetanus vaccinations as part of its ‘Protect the Protectors’ vaccination drive, the volunteers are reimbursed their vehicle expenses post submission of the animal rescue form and the receipt from the animal hospital where the injured animal was dropped post rescue, the top 20 volunteers who help in rescuing animals are also aided by PAWS with a Medical/Health insurance policy and besides this PAWS has distributed First Aid kits to 5 volunteers in Dombivili who help out with Animal First Aid regularly and their medicine stocks are also replenished as and when they run out of it.

What is your Humane Education program all about?

With the help of video screening, live talks and interactions, the society tries to create awareness about animal welfare. We teach children to kind to animals, we teach them how to take basic care of pets with live talks. PAWS also distribute free software for dissection in schools and colleges. PAWS produces pamphlets on animal welfare acts, which are distributed free of costs to the interested citizens and volunteers.

Tell us about PAWS merchandise.

Often, people like Nilesh and many who work for animal welfare are asked this question of why we care for animals when there are so many humans suffering. And to this my answer is that caring for voiceless animals doesn’t mean that we care less for humans, in-fact the activities done by PAWS for children with special needs and other societies working with orphaned, disabled and underprivileged children only goes to prove that people who think and care for animals and their suffering have a very high empathetic quotient, they are sensitive people who care equally deeply about humans and their suffering, it is just that they prefer volunteering their hands-on efforts to animals, because there are in any case man few people fighting for animals and their rights to live lives of respect and dignity. We buy eco-friendly, hand-made & natural products from above mentioned societies and we support their activities & stay away from buying products that made by commercial business group. We add out label on it & sale in different charity gala & in corporate events. 

What is Nilesh’s typical day like?

The day start with lot of calls arrives on our helpline & I start attending it. With snake visit in some one’s house to owl attacked by crows, from injured calf lying on streets to cat met with an accident. I start forwarding to such rescue calls to the volunteers of PAWS or to staff & direct them to different animal hospitals. The day ends with lot of rescues & happy stories in day.

Any upcoming project or initiatives you would like to disclose?

Starting a spay-neuter project & wind-mill or solar power plant on current PAWS hospital is on cards at the moments but depends on funds available.

What are your leisure time activities?

Love to go out dinner with friends, Play with my daughter, also I read books, collecting wristwatches is my hobby.  

Would you like to add anything?

Would like to a brief give message – Love Animals & Don’t Eat them! Donate to Causes!

Thank you.

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