Sunday, December 25, 2016

Munchi, Salawatte’s multi religious Christmas miracle

This little brown cow was given in fulfillment of a vow to a local Hindu soothsayer, protected by Buddhists, rescued by Muslims and saved this Christmas.
On 20th December a social media SOS went out through the Animal SOS Facebook page about a little skinny brown cow running loose in Salawatte, a marshy area in Wellampitiya, who had a terrible wound in its face from a rope having been tied too tight . The SOS was shared by more than 200 concerned animal lovers and no one seemed to know what to do. I did not see this post till much later.

On 21st December as I was just leaving for work one of my neighbours squirmed apologetically up to me and said there was a cow in trouble down in the Wela ( marsh) at the bottom of my road.  And that he had once seen me rescuing a puppy with a broken leg.
Possibly since regular Salawatte people are beyond such eccentricities I'd been noted by my neighbours as one of those crazy animal supporting busybodies and possibly classed with NGO traitors (Jaathi Droheen), feminists and homosexuals... You got the impression that a few hundred years ago I would have been burnt at some stake along with my poor rescued cat, if Salawatte had been a British village…

ANYWAY, so, I went and inspected the Cow.  

My so-called smartphone stubbornly went blank and the Cow ran away. I was taken up a different route around the marsh and into someones garden.  he cow who according to my informant did not trust men, came much closer and I was able to take some better photos. The injury was simply horrifying especially after people shrugged and giggled and said she had been like this for months. They did not seem too concerned that she was suffering silently, banging her head into walls in an effort to get rid of the rope, and leaving the place bloody. They were uncomfortable that now she was actually bleeding and messing up the place. She was ownerless and there were two camps of people one which claimed that she was a released "charity-merit-cow" people had donated to the local oracle or Maani, and the other more sinisterly that she was a cow destined for Haji slaughter which had escaped.

Here are the photos. They are rather disturbing to most people. However one local woman even said to me "whats the matter? why are you trying to catch the cow?" "Does it have a wound?" by which Im convinced that some people in my neighborhood need to be more in the present.

munchi1.jpg  munchi2.jpg munchi3.jpg

I could feel all the rapid labeling going on behind me but I could not walk away. I was also determined to be a complete and utter nuisance to every sniggering person in this neighbourhood until this matter was solved. So I hatched Operation Munchi . Not to be confused with the biscuit company which are not involved. Plan A was to capture her, cut the damned rope and medicate her.

First we had to catch her.

Fifteen phone calls and another two Facebook posts afterwards I was to understand that 1. private vets and clinics are understaffed/have no handlers/do not care/are on vacation. 2. the local police do not know about it so it didn't happen/also do not care. 3. the wildlife authorities are not allowed to mess with cows since they are classified as domesticated. 4. scores of people wanted to help but didn't really know where Wellampitiya was (you can find it on Google maps, seriously folks). 5 a few armchair activists recommended Embark which made me want to swear, as seriously where do people get the idea that Embark catches cows? Is their mandate, and the word "bark" not clear enough?

Someone else kindly recommended a dog catcher with Ketamine injections on a long stick  but the truth is that this terrified cow wasn't actually going to hang around waiting to be poked with injections from a long stick and also one has to be very careful with sedating a cow/or giving them oral medicines due to their complicated digestive systems. Munchi for some reason also hated and was terrified of men particularly. I dont want to even begin to speculate why this is but truly when any man walked around she was very uneasy and she very well knew the difference between men and women. Moot point, no vet was going to run around in the marshes of Salawatte trying to catch a runaway cow.

Urgent SOS this cow is running around in the marsh in Salawatte and won't let anyone touch her. We need professional help to catch her and cut that noose which has eaten into her face and throat. SPREAD this post

BY 11.50 on Thursday I had sourced village experts who said they could noose her and tie her to a tree. I ran my own Facebook appeal and begged someone recommend a humane and clever vet who will visit Wellampitiya and perform a mini operation. Then I sent a notice to Daily Mirror which was to be printed the next day. 2.30pm update again I had called three known vets who all said we should contact the Kolönawa Govt Veterinary office at IDH junction. Locals said they had already contacted, and I too called them but the Govt vets demanded the Cow be caught first... and the Salawatte men had tried one whole morning to catch her but no luck as she runs away.  I was to hear this sorry story repeated by a number of burly men. This was Wellampitiya, a town well known for its thugs, criminals, shootouts and drug rings and all these large strong men were telling me that they could not catch a small malnourished cow. At the end of the day I believed them - I was pretty sure they would honestly have tried especially when they were short of pocket money or when they needed something to nibble with the daily evening drinks.

By  3.48pm Thursday I had called Kolonnawa Govt Vets, they said to call the Wildlife Department or to catch the cow, otherwise they are unable to handle. THREE leading local private Veterinary clinics said they cannot handle cows saying that handlers were not available but I got the distinct impression that they didnt have cattle handlers anyway (?!?)etc.  5.15 update I sourced a three member team from Hanwella, a tuk tuk thug and two proper buffalo farmers, and was worried that this might involve some temporary trauma as we had no sedatives and those men didn't look the type who would be sensitive to the needs of this traumatized little cow

7 pm update awaiting the cowboys from Hanwella....

My next update was at 10.22 on Thursday night and I wrote it on a laptop in the dark. The lights having gone in Wellampitiya due to a lamp post collapsing. We had had run about for THREE WHOLE hours trying to catch this cow. FIVE strong men and me in a skirt , trying to catch one cow. the skirt is because allegedly she trusts women,but it didn't quite work out that way and half way through the operation the heavens decided to open up with the storm of the century and TWO of the strong men stood with the REST of the Wellampitiya community HUDDLED UNDER TREES not getting wet. So much for their so called efforts over the previous months. I won't write here what I think of the men of Salawatte/Wellampitiya!
One of our local supporters took this opportunity to steal the handphone of one of the Hanwella cowboys, because, of course, no good deed goes unpunished, particularly in Wellampitiya. Since there was no local support for example such as some one to give directions in the roads, or lend us an umbrella; the cow went up and down and round and round and the people who were supposed to help us remained hiding FROM THE RAIN IN A GROUP, I was soaked to my skin which I dont really mind but my phone suffered some  water logging. My good friend Zeenath did everything she could to give directions and coordinate but the cow outwitted us thoroughly. Worst of all, a bunch of saboteurs came and told the cow handlers that this was A COW EARMARKED FOR HAJI SACRIFICE which had gotten away... Which I assume was  supposed to somehow make the situation acceptable?/??

UPDATE 11.22 on Thursday A local radio station had contacted Mr Alwis (our Salawatte contact who first alerted me to the issue), and hopefully something would finally be done - I waited.

Zeenath and me hatched plan B which was to use gentle feminine charm and befriend our feisty little herbivore and try to catch her. She was after all practically eating out of our hands, it's just that she would not let us touch her neck ropes. This idea had its flaws because whereas she is a gentle soul, when she starts to run it is like a small truck without brakes and anyone who gets tangled in that setup could very probably die. By this time I had alerted my animal activist friends, and we were constantly brainstorming as to what could be done.

Update 8 AM Friday morning. The Hanwella cowboys had been alerted to the routes taken by Munchi who is a creature of habit, and they had cleverly erected a small neck trap which would tangle her on the way to dinner. This had worked and there she was, annoyed but quiet enough. Things developed from here very quickly. - the Salawatte menfolk grabbed her and sawed off the terrible rope that was cutting her flesh (Thankfully I did not see this brutal operation and it was over very quickly) and she was secured for a vet to come and attend. Friday was frankly one of the best days of the year as far as we were concerned. (There was of course a complication of a local drunk who came and untied her and let her run away again, but since she had a long rope trailing after her she was relatively easy to recapture after a lot of cursing and swearing from me embarrassed the locals and she was PROPERLY secured)

Photos from after the rope was cut

On Saturday the day before Christmas a professional team of vets from SkyPet came over and in an two hour operation, calmed her, painlessly secured her tighter, sedated her, cleaned the wound thoroughly and gave her a set of strong antibiotic injections which would last a week they said. Her would had indeed been maggot infested which is unsurprising considering the time it had been neglected.
By Friday more than three hundred people had shared, commented advised and encouraged us on my FB posts, and Daily Mirror had kindly run my appeal which resulted in a large number of calls coming in offering to help (providing the cow was captured of course). Two anonymous donors, Muslim and Christian, sent funding to fully cover all medical and other expenses and all my friends pitched in, in so many ways.
Munchi is right now munching away at the bottom of my road, on the way to recovery and you can view videos on my FB page. My friends and I have learnt so much over the last week - what cows eat, what to do if you need to catch one, what the Govt and other authorities will and mostly will not do, and that there is a lot of love and kindness out there from places where you may not expect to find it. We are still learning and might need crowd support when it comes to the tricky issue of wading through local politics and paperwork and finding permanent safety for this poor gentle soul.
There is also the issue of unregulated releasing of so called "merit cows" in the city, which just adds to the population of starving animals walking around eating garbage and being a nuisance, which is presumably why someone had tied her face in the first place- this will need intelligent solutions.

The experience also it taught us that a few determined ordinary housewives can sometimes prevail where lots of strong men have failed.

For inquiries pls contact Chandrika 0772299979/ Zeenath 0757115387  or Mr Alwis 0771814144
We need this story to be as public as possible so as to ensure that Munchi is safe from harm, so that we can find a safe place for her to stay where she will be left in peace. Phase 2 of Operation Munchi is tackling the lethargic local bureaucracy and evading certain salivating Salawatte sections. Please stay with us and dont let Munchi be lost in the red tape.

Thank you EVERYONE especially: Zeenath Amanath, Christine Perera, Nadeesha Paulis, Dr Asanka, Dr Pasan, Dr Percy, Jennifer Rodrigo, Marilyn Wouters, Sakuntala Sachithanandan, Sriyanie Wijesundera, Nadeeka Dharmaratne ExPats Furniture Service and Daily Mirror IShani, Sahana,Keshan, and everyone commenting, sharing and cheering us on, and of course the Hanwella Cowboys without whom this could not have been achieved, not forgetting our very blessed anonymous donors… Three cheers for Munchi!

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