MEHOOPANY, Pa. (AP) — Each of the 300 animals who call the Indraloka Animal Sanctuary home has a story.
Eddie Traffic was a pig headed to slaughter on Interstate 80 in New Jersey before he jumped from a truck and escaped. Mookie was a malnourished, motherless calf whose herd rejected him. And 50 of the sanctuary’s chickens fell from a truck during a traffic accident in Luzerne County.
Away from highways and unfriendly herds, they now graze freely at the Mehoopany sanctuary before their next chapter begins next year. Indraloka is relocating to a 100-acre farm straddling Lackawanna and Wyoming counties near Dalton. More details on the move will be available next year.
Sheep, chickens, turkeys, peafowl, goats, horses, mules, cows, pigs and miniature pigs, cats, ducks, a dog and goose live at the sanctuary’s current 40-acre farm, where they are encouraged to find their own space and comfortably interact with humans. Hubub the goat prefers to hang out with horses; Penny, a rooster, can often be found with the pigs; and Homer, also a rooster, lives with the elderly goats.
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The animals, often rescued from factory farms or neglect, will live at Indraloka for the “rest of their natural lives,” said Indra Lahiri, sanctuary founder. Just off Route 87, on a hill near Mehoopany Creek, cows graze together at the sanctuary while nosey barn cats with stunted tails follow around Lahiri. She calls out to the animals by name.
On a recent day at the farm, a pink pig named Jeremiah, who sports floppy ears and a black spot near his eye, made his way to Johnny Braz in late November. Without prompting, the pig flopped onto his side and let Braz, the sanctuary’s creative director, massage his limbs.
“You see their personalities,” Braz said.
Indraloka focuses on rescuing farm animals, said Lahiri. The newest additions to the sanctuary are a family of peafowl — three females and a male — who were rescued from a roadside zoo; and Gavin, a young black pig. The farm is at capacity now.
Lahiri, originally from Bucks County, founded the sanctuary May 2, 2005. The Mehoopany Farm was the first of 32 she toured. She rescued dogs, cats and horses in the late 1990s before she met Pigmont during a rescue.
Others thought the pig was ugly. “I thought he was beautiful,” Lahiri said.
She took Pigmont home and began researching the care of pigs, just like she did for the other animals.
She realized “everyone was rescuing dogs, cats and horses,” and her focus shifted.
“They’re overlooked,” Lahiri said about farm animals. “There’s so much suffering amongst farm animals and a great deal of abuse.”
Lahiri and Braz, of Scranton, use their storytelling skills — Lahiri is a writer and Braz is a videographer and photographer — to inform the sanctuary’s vast community about the animals, mostly using the internet.
“We realized we had to do more than rescue, we had to tell their stories,” said Braz. “We want to be a positive influence.”
The animal’s stories will reach about 1 million people online before the end of the year, Lahiri estimates.
The Dodo, a popular website specializing in animal content, has also featured Indraloka’s furry and feathered residents many times.
Braz and Lahiri also tour the world to bring awareness about the animals. Instead of focusing on the cruelty some of the animals have endured, the pair talk of their transformations. Lahiri also provides student outreach in the region and works with school districts, including Scranton.
Running the sanctuary, which is certified by the nonprofit Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, costs about $600,000 a year, said Lahiri. It relies entirely on donations, of both money and supplies. It costs the sanctuary $5.50 per day, or $2,000 a year, to care for one animal, which includes feeding, caregiving, medications if needed and veterinary care.
Indraloka’s reach is so wide that international donors contribute to the sanctuary, and people from as far away as Poland have come to visit.
Donations go toward veterinary care as well. The animals all receive weekly health checks, said Lahiri, since they often have medical issues because they were bred for reasons that did not include a lengthy life, she added.
Part of what keeps Indraloka so successful in providing a better life for its animals is the support it receives both at home and abroad.
“NEPA has a culture that is kind,” said Lahiri. “We couldn’t do it without our neighbors.”
Information from: The Times-Tribune, http://thetimes-tribune.com/