In Mumbai, India, the city’s rapid industrialization over the last generation has left the area trying to find a balance between the urban development and the animals that have lived there for years.
As a result, thousands of animals—both wild and domesticated—have found themselves in dangerous, sometimes even life-threatening, situations. From habitat loss to environmental pollution, the nation’s four-legged, feathered, or finned friends have ended up facing countless dangers.
Luckily, 26-year-old Pawan Sharma has dedicated his life to saving as many of these creatures as possible.
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Starting in 2011, Sharma has rescued over 10,000 animals and counting. He founded the NGO Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) when he was just 18 years old, and has worked over the last eight years to raise money and awareness for finding better ways for animals and humans to co-exist across India.
His passion for animals started as a child, when he lived near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
“While growing up, I used to watch a lot of documentaries and shows on wild animals, and my favorite part would be the rescue operation. I always imagined myself in the rescuer’s place,” he told The Better India.
He rescued his first animal at age 13, snagging a Russell viper, and has gone on to rescue everything from lizards and snakes to monkeys and dogs.
Recently, RAWW Mumbai rescued a sweet-mannered monkey after it was spotted by rickshaw auto drivers, electrocuted and barely able to move. Sharma and his fellow volunteers have worked to help rehabilitate the monkey, whom they’ve named Agni, and have given it a second chance at life after it was put in such serious danger.
Sharma’s NGO is a non-profit, but he is still working to raise money to make sure that he’s not doing everything on his own. His goal is to be able to provide help and medical care for all of the animals he encounters, not just the ones that he has the knowledge to assist himself.
“Treating an animal requires money and time. Financial resources are needed to hire a veterinary doctor. On occasions, when the animal is severely injured, we need a basic medical kit and an ambulance. So to acquire proper infrastructure, we are raising funds,” says Pawan, via The Better India.
It’s not just about the personal responsibility for Sharma, either.
In addition to the actual animal rescues, the 26-year-old and his team have worked to create workshops and campaigns to raise awareness for their communities, promoting conservation and animal-friendly environments. As India’s population continues to grow, programs like this one remain incredibly crucial—so his work will hopefully provide residents even outside of Mumbai with the information they need to make sure animals don’t end up like Agni.
“Since I live very close to SGNP, we often spot snakes in my colony, and every time I rescued them, people would doubt my intentions, thinking I wanted to smuggle them. So, to put an end to the rumors, I registered my NGO with the Maharashtra Forest Department,” he explained.
It’s been eight years already. But at the rate that Sharma has been able to help the animals in his community, it’s clear that there’s no looking back!