WUHAN: On the anniversary of the world's first coronavirus lockdown, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, life for animal lover Du Fan has returned to something like normal.
That means Du and his organisation, the Wuhan Small Animals Protection Association, can focus their energy on rescuing, caring and finding homes for stray cats and dogs.
Twelve months ago, however, Du, 38, and his group were faced with a whole new problem - saving pets who had homes, but whose owners were unable to provide them with daily necessities when the city where the coronavirus emerged went into lockdown.
So they began a project that eventually led to them saving more than 10,000 pets from more than 5,000 households, Du said.
Getting into residential compounds sometimes required the gift of the gab or special passes. And to get into flats, Du's team would hire locksmiths, with the owner's consent, to open doors.
Ninety-five per cent of the pets left home alone were cats.
"There would be nothing to eat," Du said.
"The litter box would be full. So the cat had no place to poop. But when you had finished all your work and when this dog or cat had been saved from death because of your effort, you would feel very fulfilled in your heart," he added.
Du said the work he and the team benefited the whole community, not just the pet owners and their animals.
"While helping the owner of the animal, we also helped the whole compound by maintaining its hygiene," Du said.
The project was cut short after two weeks when an even stricter lockdown was enforced. But Du said that many pets were able to get through the remaining two months of lockdown thanks to his team putting down vast amounts of food and water, which could last for weeks, and calling on owners to find a way to get back to Wuhan, which many ended up doing.
Du has noticed that since the pandemic, awareness and understanding about animals in some areas has improved, such as with regard to the eating of wild animals, cats and dogs.
It is a tradition to eat such meat in many parts of China but following the pandemic the wild animal trade has been banned.
Du, who has worked in the field for over a decade, hopes that the lockdown experience has made people more aware of the care their pets need.
"I've been telling my friends that no matter what happens to us, we shouldn't leave our pets alone at home for too long, whether it's a cat or a dog," Du said.