Packs of hungry dogs now roam Goa's beaches, instead of throngs of eager tourists, ever since the state went into lockdown mode last month, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
With usual scraps of food like chicken bones, leftover grub from beach shacks and morsels thrown to them by holidaying tourists now non-existent, a local nightclub and teams of lifeguards have now taken to feeding the beach strays, especially along the most popular beach stretch from Sinquerim to Baga, which in normal course would see thousands of tourists frolicking everyday.
The prime stretch of beach is home to more than 200 stray dogs, who in absence of food and water, had turned aggressive.
"At the beach stretch between Baga to Sinquerim there are close to 200 dogs, often in packs of 10 to 12, who habitat near the areas where there is a high density of beach shacks. With no water or food coming their way, the dogs had grown aggressive and restless," according to Ravi Shankar, Executive Director at Drishti Marine, a private beach management agency which runs lifeguard services on Goa's beaches.
The drive to serve food to the hungry canines started last week, as part of the lifeguard agency's #TeraMeraBeach outreach initiative.
"At all of our 38 lifeguard towers across the coast, we have created a water station for the strays. A large bowl of water which is constantly replenished with fresh water, offers respite from the harsh summer heat to the stray animals and birds," Shankar told IANS.
The food, cooked specially for dogs, is whipped up at the kitchen of Cohiba, a stylish, popular nightclub in Sinquerim beach village. The night club has downed its shutter due to the ban on closed entertainment spaces in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the kitchen functions to cook dog food for the strays everyday.
The daily ration for the canines is 30 kg of porridge made of rice, meat broth and turmeric, the latter being a natural anti-inflammatory agent which also helps intestine and bowel health.
"Thanks to Cohiba, who have graciously opened their kitchens for us to cook a hearty meal for the strays of rice, meat broth and turmeric, we are now able to feed the dogs between Singuerim and Baga," Shankar said.
"In south Goa, we have made arrangements for food to be distributed at Colva, Betalbatim, Arossim, Mobor, Palolem and Baina beaches. On Tuesday, we also began feeding the strays in and around the Old Goa heritage sites. Close to 30 kgs of food and 30 litres of water is distributed every day to the strays across Goa through our lifeguard network," the top official also said.
Lifeguards on patrol lay out the bowls of food and water while they set out on their beach patrols and collect the empty vessels on their way back to their respective towers.
Goa is one of the top beach tourism destinations in the country and its beaches attracted more than seven million tourists last year. On account of the COVID-19 lockdown however, the beaches wear a deserted look, with only stray cows and packs of dogs marking their presence.