Unlike earlier instances, the pandemic added another layer of complexity to an already difficult job. “Conducting rescues during the pandemic is difficult. We are already in difficult situation owing to the natural disaster, and now we need to ensure that we are safe from any infection. We wash our hands after every rescue, but now we need to wash hands more frequently. Going out in larger teams is an issue, so we need to go in smaller groups,” said Anthony Rubin, an animal activist.
As soon as they learnt about Nivar and Burevi cyclones, the animal rescuers immediately began preparations. From the past experience, they expected certain trends to repeat themselves. Rather than cattle, the high-risk animals were stray dogs and cats. Typically, rescuers depend on locals to assist them to protect strays by taking them into their apartment complexes or houses during landfall of the cyclone. But the pandemic has put many people on edge, they add.
“After the 2015 floods, we got a boat to help us with rescue of larger animals. We have smaller boats that work well with smaller animals. But we learnt that it’s not possible to help larger animals. Actually most of the calls we get are to rescue people, and we do the best we can to help. We are spread thin during such times, and help from locals is greatly appreciated,” said Chinny Krishna, co-founder of Blue Cross of India.
The impact of Cyclone Nivar still being seen in the city, while Burevi posed threat to the southern districts. However, rescuers said these districts were more prepared than Chennai. “Most of the animals there are cattle, and are therefore well taken care of.
Moreover, these districts are better prepared for cyclones than Chennai. As we were dealing with the aftermath of Nivar at the time and due to travel concerns due to the pandemic, we chose to stay in the city to help with the remainders of the rescues,” recalled Rubin.