INTERVIEW WITH KHAGESHWAAR SHARMA
DIRECTOR OF THE HIMALAYAN ANIMAL RESCUE TRUST (HART)
This week HSI Australia was fortunate enough to interview Khageshwaar Sharma, the Director of the Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust (HART).
They have been working throughout Nepal since 2010 striving to create a place where animals are respected and cared for within their own community, and disease and distress are things of the past. When Nepal was hit by the earthquake last year HART were one the groups coordinating the rescue efforts on the ground, and meeting and transporting the Australian volunteer vets we sent. We took the opportunity to interview Mr Sharma about his work in Nepal.
What are the main animal welfare issues you are faced with in Nepal?
In Nepal there are no animal welfare laws, and although an act has been written there is still no focus on welfare due to political instability. They also focus on rabies management which is critical because Nepal is the most rabies stricken country in the world. HART has been working hard gathering information on dog population management and about 6,000 households have already been surveyed, and they are working with the community to help understand the rabies.
Have you measured the impact of this outreach work?
HART’s work has shown that awareness of rabies significantly increased within just 6 months showing that their programs are proving effective. Their survey showed that 38% are still in favour of poisoning dogs as a method to eradicate rabies, so there is still much work to be done. HART’s target is to vaccinate over 70% of the dog population against rabies and they are reaching many animals using their dedicated team. The goal is for rabies to be eradicated by the year 2030 so it would be disappointing if the government is not supportive of their work.
What part did HART play in the disaster relief after the earthquake?
During the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015, HART played a huge part rescuing and treating injured animals across the region. HSI Australia assisted with these relief efforts, and arranged for a number of Australian vets to be sent out to work saving lives on the ground.
What was the biggest challenge for you after the earthquake?
One of the biggest challenges for the HART team was balancing people and animals. They were faced with so many who needed their help and before long they were soon recognised as the rescue team offering hope and resources to villages in desperate times. It was a shocking situation and had we not had the expert Australian vets on board, we could not have coped. The medicine and equipment provided through the relief efforts in Australia made all the difference. It also presented a great opportunity for our vets to learn new techniques from the Australian large animal expert vets.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The the most rewarding part of my work is the feeling of satisfaction, and seeing how HART has brought help to so many families, realising how much HART were relied on.
It was extremely heart-warming to listen to all the stories and personal experiences that had touched the hearts of Mr Sharma and his dedicated team at HART.