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There was a traveling carnival on the edge of town with animals in inhumane conditions as part of a makeshift zoo. Manoj wanted to shut them down and set the animals free. He met with the local minister of forestry so that he’d have the support of police when he did.

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The official listened to Manoj’s case and suggested he talk to the zookeepers first, see if they’d be willing to improve the conditions for the animals, before shutting them down. Manoj liked the idea.

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He toured their ramshackle enclosures. They had peacocks, monkeys, deer, a python, jackal, and a crocodile.  The zookeepers were from a community forest and said they’d rescued the animals and intended to release them once they were rehabilitated, though some were clearly ready for release, and others were cruelly chained, like the jackal. After much haggling they agreed to give Manoj their contact information.

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A day later we visited them during their community meeting. Manoj presented his plan to the council, that they share resources, since they have decent enclosures for their animals, but it’s clear they are not committed to a rescue and release model. He proposed bringing them animals he rescues, then work with them to rehabilitate and release. But they don’t trust him, by nightfall they agree to the possibility.

Manoj tours their enclosures and examines their python. It’s a massive snake, and starts wrapping around Manoj’s neck, arms, and waist as he holds its jaw to examine its mouth. He keeps untangling himself as people hold up flashlights so he can see its infections.

After that he’s earned their respect. The treasurer of the district suggests they meet the next day to take Manoj to some snake charmers.

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