With our duty to reveal, rescue and protect animals, rescue missions are part of FOUR PAWS DNA. For over 30 years, we’ve travelled the globe and stepped foot in some of the most volatile situations to remove at-risk animals from situations of cruelty, conflict and suffering.
In this blog, we catch up with Dr. Amir Khalil, Director Reveal and Rescue Response at FOUR PAWS to discuss the complex realities behind our rescues.
So, Dr. Amir, how long does it take to plan a rescue from conception to completion?
It completely depends on the individual case. We have rapid response rescues, such as the recent rescue of a brown bear from his abandoned enclosure in a war-torn area of Ukraine. These rescues are quicker, taking up to 48 hours to complete, but more complex projects can take anywhere up to three months to plan.
A great example of a long-term rescue would be that of Kavaan, the world’s loneliest elephant. His rescue actually began in 2016. It took four years to get to the point of finally meeting him and orchestrating his eventual rescue in November 2020.
What preparation does an animal need before they are rescued?
It is extremely important that animals are prepared for their transportation. The animal and their well-being always comes first.
When we first meet the animals they may be in poor health, they are often stressed and they are, after all, always wild animals, so our first port of call is to carefully and considerately train the animal to become prepared for their journey. Without this, the shock and upheaval of a transfer could potentially severely impact the animal. In terms of transportation and global travel, animals also require the same documentation as humans. In our post-covid world, PCR tests now need to be done on animals along with our travelling team members. Without standard IDs like our passports, we must also invent ID for them, so that countries can identify them across borders.
What are the most common hurdles you face when planning a rescue?
Delays and issues can come up at any point of the project, particularly when you arrive on site to fulfil the rescue itself. There are many reasons why issues can arise, from logistical to political or even ‘personal’ problems.
But the biggest problem we face when completing a rescue in difficult areas is that unfortunately we become a part of the conflict.
Coming into a country with a volatile situation means that we can often be viewed as a suspect, and sadly, so does the animal. At every point of border crossing, of meeting new people, everything and everyone needs to be approved.
For example, when going into Gaza with a recently rescued tiger, he needed to be thoroughly examined to make sure he was safe, not a threat and not a national security threat. It may seem out of our realms of understanding in the UK, but these are very real concerns for people in countries in the midst of unrest.
How common (or rare) is it that rescues can’t go ahead?
Across 30 years, every project we have had has brought its own unique challenges and delays. But we never give up on an animal in need.
The important thing is that we are flexible, and can think on our feet to improvise a workaround and have a mindset that is prepared for potential difficulties.
Catching up with Dr. Amir, it is clear to see that when it comes to a rescue, there is more to it than meets the eye, and it takes a whole lot of creativity, dedication and tact from Dr. Amir and his incredible team to ensure these painstaking and time-consuming projects are a success.
In his own words, the animal always comes first, and although these rescues do take time, and lot of thinking on their feet, seeing animals thrive in species-appropriate forever homes makes it all worth it.
Take a look at some of our success stories here, and see what we mean!