One of the deadliest natural disasters in human history has killed nearly 150,000 people and wiped out entire communities. The underwater earthquake and resulting tsunami affected the animal kingdom, too, but disaster experts are just beginning to learn how much.
You have likely heard contradictory news reports: some sources have reported that most wild animals escaped the tsunami because of their "sixth sense" for survival; other sources have claimed widespread animal deaths and destruction. The truth is more complicated and regrettably ugly. While some animals successfully fled, many others were not so lucky.
We also have first-hand accounts from our Humane Society International Asia team, which has been dispatched to the worst-hit areas in South Asia. The team, consisting of HSI Asia Director Sherry Grant and Dr. Putu Listriana Wistawan, the co-founder and director of veterinary medicine for the Bali Street Dog Foundation, has already stopped in Sri Lanka and Thailand, where animal deaths have been limited mostly to pets. At the same time, many dogs have survived, particularly in Thailand, but these homeless creatures find themselves scrambling and scavenging for food and water. And like most pets, they will eat or drink things that are not good for them, like contaminated water. (You can help our disaster relief efforts – simply click here.)
Here's a small sampling of what we've done in South Asia. To read the full report, click here.
To help homeless canines in Thailand, Humane Society International has contributed $10,000 to the Soi Dog Foundation animal rescue project in Phuket, to provide food and water or immediate veterinary treatment to homeless dogs, and a "field clinic" in Khao Lak, which will provide treatment, care, and food for both livestock and domestic animals in the area.
HSI Asia helped coordinate the rescue of a dolphin who was carried over the tree tops by the tsunami and dumped into a makeshift lagoon.
An HSI-sponsored wildlife expert is making regular trips to deliver barrels of fresh water to a small island off Thailand that was devastated by the tsunami, leaving few inhabitants but at least 50 deer.
HSI has dispatched a small team of livestock veterinarians to Sumatra, where it is believed that agricultural animals took a large hit from the tsunami, to provide food and water and treatment to surviving cows, goats, chickens, and other animals.
"Our efforts in Sumatra are critical to helping residents get back on their feet," says HSI Executive Director Neil Trent. "These people rely on their animals not only to generate income, but also to feed their families. We want to make sure that any injured animals get healthy and are properly fed and watered."
Trent notes that getting a grip on the animal issues in all the affected countries, even at a time of unfathomable human misery and loss of life, is important. Not only is it necessary to dispose of animal remains to contain the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, but it's vital that organizations like HSI work to jumpstart the economies of these devastated communities – economies largely built on animal agriculture. After all, rebuilding the local agriculture can help a community feed its own citizens, an important step in making people self-sufficient once again.
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