Threats and bribes are no match for the hero who saves lions and chimpanzees from horrific cruelty
Antony Rubin, although the founder of a web development company by profession, is a passionate animal rescuer at heart.
The 37-year-old, from Chennai, has been working in animal welfare since 2000. He also holds a postgraduate degree in the field.
He says that from the age of about 17 he would pity seeing overloaded oxcarts. He and his friends were unloading heavy equipment and removing whips attached to animals.
“From an early age, I could not bear to see animals suffer. The rescue work gave me satisfaction,” he says.
The incident that got Antony interested in animal rescue:
Young Antoine was always on the lookout for suffering creatures in need of rescue. So when he spotted a horse in pathetic condition while on a beach one day, he acted immediately.
“The horse had been used for walks on the beach and the constant walking had left him in terrible condition, with swollen legs. We arranged for an ambulance to take him to a veterinary hospital,” says -he.
But unfortunately, the horse fell dead before he could get to the hospital. This tragic incident marked Antoine, who decided to take up animal rescue in his spare time on a much larger scale.
Since then, he has dedicated himself to rescuing dogs, horses, chimpanzees and even lions, among other animals.
The case of the chimpanzees
“I’m going to tell you about the chimpanzee rescue operation,” says Antony, explaining that it all started when he learned from his sources that there was a well-known circus in Tamil Nadu, where four chimpanzees were performing.
Among them was Lakshmi, who was riding a bicycle on a thin rope to entertain the crowd, and was injured during the act. “When we saw her she was paralyzed, had bedsores and couldn’t move,” says Antony, adding that her small cage limited her movements and made matters worse.
With his team, he filed a complaint with the police and organized a device to save the chimpanzees and bring them to safety. However, it was not as simple as it seems.
Due to the size of the chimpanzees, only two could be taken into the trailer at a time. Lakshmi’s mother and cousin were taken on the first trip. “We had planned to come back and take Guru (his son) on the second trip, but he was aggressive. He did not feel safe without his family present. So we had to take the other two chimpanzees back to the circus and bring them back together to the rescue center.
He says: “The whole operation lasted 72 hours and was supervised by 300 policemen.
As for Lakshmi, she was taken by ambulance to a nearby rescue centre, where her injuries were treated.
For Antoine, it is the happiness of the animal to be rescued that makes all the difference.
“Months later, on Lakshmi’s birthday, I went to the rescue center to see how she was doing. The chain on her neck was still there as it was feared she would become aggressive once it was removed and set free.
With the permission of the guards there, Antoine began to remove the chain, as “Happy Birthday” was sung for the chimpanzee. He says, “I knew either of two things could happen – Lakshmi would turn violent after so many years in captivity, or she would be immensely happy to be free.”
What followed made Antoine’s heart melt – Lakshmi smiled brightly and kept a hand on Antoine.
But as heartwarming as those moments are, it also encounters plenty of terrifying incidents.
The poacher who sold a panther
“Sometimes I learn that an animal needs rescuing, but when I delve into the matter, the scene gets murkier and it leads to something I didn’t expect,” he says.
One such incident was when, while touring Chennai, he spotted a Malabar squirrel.
“I knew for a fact that this was not a likely habitat where a giant squirrel would be seen, and I started researching where it came from. I landed in a house near a renowned university in Chennai .
Things became more suspicious when the owners – when questioned – said they bought the giant squirrel from a man who apparently had a menu card of animals that had been poached.
Posing as a buyer, Antony managed to track him down and was offered a panther for Rs 22,000.
In an attempt to end his game, Antony played along and threw bait with the police involved. The story ended with the poacher being put behind bars.
Examples of cruelty to animals are numerous, as Antoine says.
pride of lions
Antony was well aware that the Indian government had banned the use of lions in circuses. So when he learned that a certain place was hiding lions for a circus and keeping them in rusty cages with little to no maintenance, he was determined to get to the bottom of the story.
“My investigation led me to a neighborhood in Tamil Nadu, where I found the laundry near which there were a few cages,” he said, adding that it was an area with many local shops nearby, all without a clue that just a few feet away from them were these four ferocious wild beasts.
“When I saw the way the lions were kept, I was afraid of the time it would take before they would break free,” he adds, recalling that there was no one to feed the animals and that they were only given dal and rice.
In an attempt to put a stop to this, Antony then went to the cops, but they refused to do anything, saying it was a legal matter and they couldn’t get involved.
“But I knew my plea would be heard by the media.”
So, Antony took photos of the cages and returned to Chennai, where he shared them with the media and explained why the situation was dangerous.
The next day, citizens and politicians in Tamil Nadu woke up to the horrific news of the lions’ proximity to residential areas, and it was ordered that the lions be immediately transferred to the rescue center.
“When I went to the center later to see the animals, the lion wanted to snuggle up to me through the mesh,” he says. “He behaved like a little cat.”
But is he ever afraid?
“When you do good, there is a kind of protection around you,” explains Antoine. “Even in the most frightening of circumstances, I feel there is a force around me.”
He recounts how people have threatened him, as he often saves cattle from being illegally slaughtered. But at the end of the day, Antony feels he’s doing his part to help the voiceless animals.
Although he doesn’t count the number of animals he rescues, he says there have been 85 horses and 18 lions among them.
Alongside rescues in the field, Antony also began to get involved in animal policy frameworks. “I am advocating for laws to be introduced for animal safety, laws against cruelty. I also file animal abuse cases.
In May 2022, Antony was appointed as a member of the State Wildlife Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
“What we have to understand is that we share the same planet,” he says, explaining why he is so passionate about animals and their rights. “Animals never want to harm us, but as we take over their land, they are forced to survive in any way they can. We need to accelerate change. »