The world of animals is a fascinating one but it’s also one that requires respect and compassion from us human beings. In Mauritius, while some animals have a home and a family to love and care for them, others roam on the streets and are preys to other animals and diseases. Expats who have at heart the animal cause share with us their passion for our little four leg friends and their rescue work around the island.
Barbara Elkaz: “Once we stepped into the rescue world, we did not turn back”
Living in Mauritius for the past three and a half years, Barbara describes herself as a citizen of the world. “Due to my job, I have been living in several beautiful places and travelled a lot, something I never even dreamt of when I was just a little girl. I love nature, animals, art strongly believe in sustainability, in living kindly,” she says. It’s for love that our expat decided to move to Mauritius. “My partner is from here and also the company to which I am loyal for 16 years as well. Thus, after some moving around, I have chosen to come back to Mauritius. It was a small step aside careerwise, but a step forward in private life,” she explains.
Barbara always loved dogs but she never had one. She confides that one of the first things her and her partner did to make their house feel like a home is that they got two dogs. The passionate hotelier then got involved in animal rescue out of compassion.
“We already got two dogs after we moved back here. I ended for some reason on Facebook Rescue pages and saw a post where somebody needed a foster for a very little, sad and full mange puppy which was thrown away in a plastic bag in the South. This touched a sensitive spot in me, as I cannot comprehend cruelty of any kind. It was my birthday and I asked to my partner that instead of a gift I wanted to foster the puppy. This was Sammy, our first foster. Others followed then, coming and going, poor abandoned pups and dogs that people threw away. We usually have four to six fosters at home on top of ours,” she shares.
She declares at the time of moving in Mauritius, she was not aware of the mistreatment of animals. “I was unaware of the misery that we see daily here in terms of abandonment and abuse of the dogs. Once we stepped into the rescue world with fostering of Sammy, we did not turn back. At times it is hard, physically and above all emotionally, but you save a life and that is what matters. If we stop, an abandoned puppy left in the field or by the rod could die from hunger and fear. How can we stop then?”
She adds that what appeals to her most is that she believes that in this life we are not here just for ourselves to work, eat, sleep, have fun, gather things. “Yes, it is important to enjoy life but a part of our life is meant to be for others – be it for people who need it, animals in my case, or nature, for any good cause. I would see myself as selfish if living only for myself, whilst knowing how much need to help is out there,” she declares.
Barbara and her partner are both full volunteers in animals fostering and rescue. “We foster when have free space in our home. We collaborated in past with two UK charities to find homes for some of our fosters abroad. 25 of our fosters who lived with us for three to four months are now living beautiful lives there. This we see as a success in life. We fostered for shorter or longer time other 20-30 abandoned puppies/dogs that passed through our house and were adopted here or moved on to shelters. At the moment I mostly volunteer for a project in Belle Mare/Palmar where we offer help to hotels to sterilize beach stray dogs, take to vet if needed, feed and the happiest moments of all – assist tourist with the adoption. This is where we feel joy, as another life is saved. It is important to know that most of the tourists love dogs and want to see hotels involved in caring about them. Even those who do not like them, do not wish them harm,” she utters.
The woman expat is grateful to her partner for his help in all that she does. “My biggest help for fostering is my partner. He never thought we will foster all this dogs but we did and he helped with each and loved each of them. I am more of a caring type but somehow, he understands them more. I also get a lot of help from friends who rescue and other volunteers.”
Barabara trusts that there are large steps that should be taken when it comes to animal protection in Mauritius. “First, the animal welfare law needs to acknowledge that dogs and cats are sentient beings. Second, there is a need for animal cruelty/welfare police, and stronger implementation of the penalty for abusers. Regular police are not specialised in this and have other priorities. Third, there is a need for mass sterilisation on large scale so that the growth of canine population stops. Fourth, the promotion and education of adults and kids on animal welfare is needed. The future is in kids, so schools ought to teach not just the knowledge but also compassion, empathy and how to be an active member of the society. Fifth, there should also be the promotion of adoption of Mauritian strays, who are beautiful and smart, but many only wish to have a breed dog. Last but not least there we should be promoting the fact that everybody ought to be part of the solution of this issue. Few shelters, volunteers and one governmental organisation cannot fix this on their own. All of these steps will help towards growing more compassionate and sustainable society towards dogs, cats, but also bats and monkeys,” she asserts.
Malika Gavin: “Our life is centred on rescuing, healing, nurturing and giving love to as many dogs as possible”
Originally from Switzerland, Malika moved to Mauritius in 2020. The expat shares that she has grown up knowing and loving the island and our culture. “I’m an open mind and free spirit person who loves nature, animals, the ocean and has a purpose in life. I live in Mauritius since 2020 but I have known the island for 33 years. When we were kids, we had a Mauritian nanny. She was our parents’ best-friend and our heart mother. We have been educated with a lot of spices, colours and Sega. I love a lot of things in Mauritius, love the people, music and food. The motivation to settle down in Mauritius came a long time ago when I was 20 years old but life took me some more time to realise an old dream. Everything has been accelerated when my sister saved Indie, her first rescue,” she explains.
Yoga teacher by profession, Malika declares that she now spends much time running her NGO and dog shelter. “I’m a yoga teacher that worked for more than 15 years in different studios and for different populations, from children to adults, seniors and people that are suffering from cancer. I’m still working as a yoga teacher online in Mauritius because it is my passion, but sincerely my days are spent running our non-profitable organisation and our shelter for the dogs Indie’s World,” she says.
The Swiss expat confides that she is more involved in animal rescue and that it is her sister who founded the dog’s shelter named Indie’s World. “My sister Cindy founded a shelter for dogs four years ago, as I was still living in Switzerland at that time. So, I decided to create with the help of two love one a non-profit organisation to help her save more dogs. Since that our life is centred on rescuing, healing, nurturing and giving love to as many dogs as possible.”
Malike is of the opinion that the situation for strays here in Mauritius is dramatical. “We are fighting for a better life for the animals but also for the people. As animal lovers, seeing all these dogs outside in bad condition is really hard. Mauritius needs to realise that we have to move quickly and smartly to stop the reproduction to avoid more suffering,” she declares. The woman expat shares that she rescues and fosters over one hundred dogs through her shelter and charitable institution Indie’s World.
“We have actually 120 dogs at the shelter. We rescue, heal, nurture, socialise and give dogs hope and maybe the chance to get adopted. We also help as much as we can the population in giving advices in terms of health and well-being for their dogs. We take also in charge vet fees for dogs that had really bad accident when our financial resources are possible. We cannot count how many rescues that we did, but it’s a lot,” she states.
At Indie’s World, Malika employs three persons but the shelter she says is open to volunteers. “We welcome volunteers from all over the world to be a part of the help regarding protection animal cause.” She trusts that there is a lot of progress to make regarding animal protection in Mauritius. “More than that we need to act now for the wellbeing of animals but for the wellbeing of the island and the people. The urgency is about making mass sterilisations. The children don’t need to see all this animals suffering,” she declares.
Speaking about life in Mauritius, she says that it is the animal cause which drives her. “We dedicate our lives for animal protection, we have almost no time for other things but that’s what makes us vibrate, feel alive and do something good in this path that is life. It is far from easy and probably the tiring thing ever but that is our choice. When we will be very old and look behind, we will be satisfied with what we did. Seeing a dog that almost died in your hand and healing him and getting him adopted into an amazing family is the most powerful feeling that we could ever feel. Our objective is simple, less dogs, less suffering, free Mauritius of stray dogs. That is our opportunity.”
Noemie Barragan: “Their recognition, their loyalty, their sincerity, their love makes them great beings”
She is best known for her love for animals in Mauritius. From French origin, Noemie Barragan settled in Mauritius nine years ago. Since her arrival, she has dedicated her life to the animals on the island. “My friends often compare me to a wild horse with a strong and free temper. I am definitely a person who is fully dedicated when doing something, defends the animal cause and the rights of women. Before I lived near Paris. Now I live alone with my animals. I came here for love and I dedicate my life to animals,” she says.
Noemie shares that Mauritius offers a lot to expats. “The advantages of living in Mauritius are numerous, moreover, let’s talk above all about the kindness of the Mauritians, the sun all year round, the taxation, people speaking Creole, French and English which is so very practical for expatriates, the landscape between the sea and the mountains, the fauna and flora and the food,” she utters. She confides that she did not have much difficulty in adapting to the Mauritian lifestyle. “When you move to a country, you have to respect its laws, its customs and its traditions. I immediately felt very good here. Mauritians are so kind and welcoming that they immediately adopted me on their island.”
The 32-year-old woman shares that her professional career has always been guided towards the animal cause. “I have always had my stables and animal shelter besides I working in the cosmetology field to be able to meet the needs of my little protégés,” she utters. Noemie adds that she has always been a person who has compassion for other’s pain and miseries. “It’s something innate in me to help others and to be the voice of the voiceless. I believe that animals greatly need us.”
The French expat has opened a shelter in Mauritius where she fosters all types of animals. “I have just over 100 animals. Horses, pony, donkey, dromedary, pig, wild boar, goat, little eagle, parrot, pitch, cat, rabbit, turtle, bat, crow, monkey. Then, during the Covid-19 pandemic period, I opened my shelter named ‘L’Arche de Noé’ (Noah’s ark). I gave my money and my love to create this refuge. And above all, I train the new generation and teach them how to treat and communicate with animals,” she utters. Noemie confides that the animals have a lot to do in curing themselves. “To tell you the truth, it’s not me who saves them. Their recognition, their loyalty, their sincerity, their love makes them great beings. Besides, I talk to them like I talk to a human.”
At her refuge, Noemie has various employees who give a precious helping hand in taking care of the animals. “There are employees and trainees working with us. The trainees can also get training and their certificates of several levels in the Equestrian and animal world.” Speaking about animal safety and protection in Mauritius, the expat is of the opinion that there is great room for improvement. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of progress to be made, in particular we need specialised veterinarians for horses, more medicines for animals among others,” she states.
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