During the early hours of an April day, as remnants of a storm from the night before formed into a drizzle, small “meows” could be heard from a fourth-storey sunshade of a building in Khilgaon.
It was a kitten trapped in a place too risky for a human being to go and save her.
But Afzal Khan, affectionately known as “Robin Hood”, made his move in the afternoon. Like a scene from a heroic movie come to life, he first broke the glass door on the fifth-floor balcony of an adjoining building and created a pathway to the spot. He then tied a rope to his waist and swooped down through a narrow space from the balcony, reached for the kitten, and rescued her.
One may have seen Afzal Khan, an actor by profession, playing different roles on television in dramas like “Putul der Shongshar” in which he starred alongside Tanjin Tisha or “Shomporker Rong” with actor Apurbo. However, when he is not on-screen, he often plays the role of a Robin Hood for stray and injured animals.
Afzal, who is in his early thirties, made it a mission for himself to rescue animals in need and was named “Robin Hood” (a legendary heroic character of English folklore) by other animal lovers due to his dedication towards animal welfare.
On his Facebook group, “RobinHood The Animal Rescuer”, members provide him with information on animals they come across, mainly dogs and cats, which are in trouble. Twenty-six of the group members work as volunteers with Afzal. They accompany him on his rescue missions and not only help him but also capture the missions on videos, which are later posted in the group.
Afzal started rearing wounded dogs he found in the city in 2010. He now has 49 animals in his home in the city's Khilgaon. Some of his pets are paralysed while some are burnt, have lost limbs or teeth or are blind.
“Not a single animal I have is healthy. All are injured and under treatment,” he told The Daily Star.
Last year, when Afzal was on his way to Rampura for shoot, he found an injured dog lying in a dustbin which was bleeding severely. He called an NGO official to rescue it. However, on his way back, he found the dog in the same place.
“I took him home and then to the doctor next morning. After surgery and severing a leg, the dog is now fine. I named him Sultan,” said Afzal.
He said he has to spend around Tk 40,000 to Tk 50,000 a month for treatment, medicines and food for the animals.
“We get around Tk 10,000 a month from donors. I spend some money from my pocket and my father helps with the rest of the funding,” said Afzal.
There are many people who have pets, but often torture the animals physically and mentally. And sometimes when the animals get sick or old, they are left abandoned, Afzal said.
“I want to build a big shelter for animals where those facing problems with injured animals could bring their pets or strays to me for free treatment. It will make it easier for them to raise the animals. I am trying to raise funds for this now,” said Afzal.