29 December 2008 Training for Disasters Animal rescue in times of natural calamities or disasters?
Philippine Delegation with(L-R) Tania Duratovic, Nick Gil
This is something new and not commonly heard of, not just in developing countries. After Hurricane Katrina and the floods in New Orleans, even Americans realized the impact of rescuing animals in times of disasters when pet owners refused to leave their pets and save themselves.
In agricultural communities hit by disasters, farmers refused to leave their livestock - cows, pigs and chickens - not for sentimental reasons but because they were their source of livelihood.
The use of an inflatable raft to rescue animals was demonstrated
Because of this, a first-of-its-kind training workshop on rescuing animals affected by disasters conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was offered to Filipino and Indonesian animal welfare groups last December 13 (2008).
"The Philippines is a natural disaster hotspot, coming 5th in the top ten disaster hotspots around the globe, so the need to be prepared is essential," said Tania Duratovic, IFAW Asia Pacific's Emergency Relief Responder.
"The Philippines has an extraordinary biodiversity including many unique and endangered species of birds and mammals. Throughout the Philippines, animals are important for food, culture, transport and recreation."
IFAW works to get people on the ground to help animals immediately following disasters. We get to save animals and assist local communities. Rescuing, feeding and inoculating pets and livestock helps people get back on their feet and also prevents the spread of disease," said Duratovic.
IFAW handpicked the applications of 5 Filipino delegates - May Angela Felix, Dr. Wilford Almoro and Dr. David Arceo, all of whom are from the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Dr. Danilo Hiceta of Palawan Animal Welfare Association (PAWA) and Dr. Nielsen Donato, Founding Member of the Philippine Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (PAWV).
The Philippine delegates attended a 5-day workshop with 30 other participants, including vets, students, NGO and government representatives from Bali, Yogjakarta, Malang and Jakarta. They underwent rigorous training in the middle of the Petungsewu Wildlife Education Center's spectacular "jungle-like" setting in Java, Indonesia.
Dr. Dick Green preps May Felix for the rappelling exercise
Aside from informative lectures and presentations, the workshop included practical training on how to rescue animals during disasters such as floods and earthquakes through exercises using ropes, knots and rappelling.
The program was conducted by internationally renowned emergency response expert Dr. Dick Green. Dr. Green has responded to over 100 disasters and was involved in rescue efforts during hurricane Katrina, the 2008 earthquake in China, as well as disasters in South East Asia, including the 2005 tsunami. Dick is currently the IFAW Emergency Response Manager for Disasters based in the United States. He travelled to Indonesia to share his expertise to the delegates.
Nick Gilman, president of Humane Logic, also conducted lectures on rescue operations and strategies.
We hoped that IFAW's animal rescue training will help the Philippines to be better prepared for future disasters." Ms. Duratovic said.
IFAW's emergency relief teams are internationally recognized as leaders in directing disaster operations. When disasters strike, IFAW has teams on the ground carrying out search and rescue, vaccination and feeding programs.
True to the purpose of their training, the PAWS delegates held the first of their series of "echo" seminars on Animal Rescues last December at the multi-purpose hall of the PAWS Animal Shelter in Quezon City.
Echo Seminar Participants at the PAWS Shelter
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we will never forget. It was an adventure, yes, but the responsibility to share the information and knowledge with as many willing animal rescuers falls squarely on our shoulders so that we will be able to mobilize teams to mount animal rescues in times of disasters in our country. We hope that fateful day never comes but if it does, it pays to be ready." says PAWS delegate May Felix.
PAWS was once deputized by the National Disaster Coordinating Council for their efforts in rescuing the abandoned dogs and cats during the Cherry Hills residential subdivision landslide in 1998 where over 80 people died.
When the people were evacuated, their pets were left behind in their yards and homes. About 30 rescued dogs and cats were brought to the PAWS Animal Shelter and all were eventually rehomed. PAWS even helped reunite 2 of the animals with their owners.
PAWS worked hand-in-hand with IFAW to feed the rescued animals and eventually take them out of the danger zones.
For volunteers and groups interested in joining future echo seminars on Rescuing Animals in Disasters, please contact PAWS at firstname.lastname@example.org