Last Thursday morning, 44-year-old taxi driver Mohamed Eliyas was getting ready for bed after his night shift when he chanced upon a friend’s plea for help on Facebook.
In it, the friend mentioned witnessing a heart-wrenching sight as he was driving along the East Coast Parkway (ECP): A cat slowly crawling towards the busy expressway’s divider, dragging its injured hind legs pitifully.
Unable to stop his car then but well aware that the marooned cat was doomed to certain death, he’d put out a call for help on Facebook.
And that was when Eliyas came to the rescue.
In his own Facebook post, Eliyas wrote that he decided to put his past highway rescue experience to good use and embark on a rescue mission that very night, when there would be fewer vehicles on the road.
He headed towards the spot where the cat was last seen – the road towards Benjamin Sheares bridge, after the ERP gantry – and spent hours crawling through the bushes, armed with only a torchlight.
His perseverance was rewarded when he finally managed to catch a glimpse of the little kitten. “Expectedly, she was not friendly,” he noted.
Knowing that it was not going to be an easy rescue he could pull off alone, he decided to set an overnight trap and went home.
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Some 24 hours later, at around 2am on Saturday morning, Eliyas and a team from Carpurrdiem – a local non-profit animal welfare organisation that was also aware of the kitten’s plight – went back to check on the trap he had set.
“Unfortunately, the kitty had not gone into the trap,” he recalled. “But thankfully, she had stayed put in the same location.”
Together, the rescue team worked to rescue the kitten, dubbed Eevee.
“Armed with a carrier, towels and torchlights, we waited for the coast to be clear before making a dash for the divider,” Carpurrdiem wrote on their own Facebook page.
“One of us was the spotter for safety, as cars whizzed past us at almost 100km/h, while the other two waited for the right opportunity to grab Eevee and put her into the carrier. She had burrowed herself into a hole, possibly knowing and preparing that she would pass away there if no one had come to get her.
“Thankfully, after much patience, Eliyas saw an opportunity and quickly grabbed Eevee and put her into the carrier. As Eevee was in so much trauma after two full days on a highway, she was very aggressive and Eliyas was left with a bleeding and swollen hand.”
By then, it was 4.30am in the morning. And within two minutes of getting onto the car, it started pouring.
Carpurrdiem wrote: “The whole operation took us 2.5 hours, but it couldn’t have gone any better. If Eliyas had not acted in the nick of time, the heavy rain would have ruined the entire operation and we don’t know what would have happened to poor Eevee – drenched and severely injured.”
The team rushed Eevee to a 24-hour emergency vet, where Eliyas wrote that she’s now “warded after treatment to control her vitals and pain. Her left leg is badly fractured and she might need surgery at a later date”.
“For now, we’re just extremely relieved she’s out of danger from the highway where she had no chance of escape.”
Rescuing animals takes a toll, but is “well worth it”
As it turned out, Eliyas was the best person to pull off this daring rescue, a sentiment that Carpurrdiem shares.
In their Facebook post, Carpurrdiem explained that, at first, they had wanted to spring into immediate action to rescue Eevee, but were advised by a member of their team to reach out to Eliyas first, as it looked to be an extremely tricky operation.
Speaking to The Pride, Carpurrdiem explained: “Even with the high levels of risk involved – for both the animal and the rescuer – he’s already successfully done a few highway rescues.”
When interviewed, Eliyas elaborated: “My first rescue was a paralysed kitten on the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE). Sadly, she passed on due to complications the next day.
“The second one was on the ECP. It actually took six days for me to trap her. I ended up adopting her. And my third rescue was on the Pan Island Expressway. It took me five days to rescue her, but unfortunately, she passed away from an unrelated illness just three weeks later.”
As a taxi driver who loses income for every hour he’s not on the road, Eliyas noted that he doesn’t have the means to take on as many rescues as he would like.
But that hasn’t stopped the passionate cat rescuer, who has rescued 67 cats (not all of them are highway rescues) since 2015, from helping as much as he can.
Speaking to The Pride, Eliyas said: “I rescue cats because someone has to. And in my line of work, I come across all kinds of cats in need – including the sick, injured, and abandoned. I always try to help if I can, and whenever possible, I try to rehome them,” he said simply.
“But that takes a lot of time and sacrifice.
“For Eevee’s case, I realised I had to help. Others may not know what to do, or may end up endangering themselves or the cat,” he added.
Regarding her rescue, he said: “It took a whole team of people to help this brave little girl out of her predicament. We had to risk our lives running across ECP with cars at high speed but it was necessary.”
However, he noted that “all the blood and sweat was well worth it”.
Eliyas ended his Facebook post with well wishes for Eevee: “Hopefully, we’ll see her make a full recovery to lead a long, healthy life ahead.”
If you’re keen to donate towards Eevee’s rehabilitation costs, find out how you can here.