News / Asia

    Japanese Disasters Also Leaving Animals in Peril

    A woman holds her dog as they are scanned for radiation at a temporary scanning center for residents living close to the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, March 16, 2011.
    A woman holds her dog as they are scanned for radiation at a temporary scanning center for residents living close to the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, March 16, 2011.

    The number of missing and dead from Japan's massive earthquake and resulting tsunami passed 21,000 on Sunday. Radiation exposure now is adding another threat to the population.  The multiple disasters not only inflicted very heavy damage and casualties for people, they also had a devastating effect on animals.

    Last week, a video posted on the internet from live Japanese television showed an abandoned and shivering dog, hair matted and dirty, skirting about wreckage in Sendai.  The pet carefully guarded another dog which had been seriously injured and was lying on its side.  The heart wrenching video has drawn more than eight-million viewers and exposes the plight that has befallen many animals in Japan.

    Dr. Bernard Unti is a Senior Policy Adviser with the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. As in most other large natural disasters, he says the situation in Japan shows the acute need for animal rescue and care.

    "Even in the midst of this calamitous triple disaster, we have seen videos and footage of Japanese citizens trying to rescue their pets when they have very little left of their homes and their lives. It is a real testament to the human animal bond.  And in that sense it really underscores what the humane movement is really all about," he said.

    Unti says this disaster has a unique twist that rescue works had not previously encountered. "We do not have responders on the ground at the moment.  We have a team stationed in the Philippines waiting to go in. But we have committed to fund local organizations that are working there.  The main consideration preventing teams from going in at the moment is the certain risks of exposure to radiation in light of the damaged nuclear reactors. That is something we have not had to face in animal related response previously," he said.

    He said animal needs are usually a secondary priority in large scale disasters. "As a practical matter, the emphasis in the early going is almost always on human needs and the human dimension of the catastrophe and the timing is such that the animal related impact and the focus on animals becomes a broader topic of concern a few days or even a week or two into the crisis," he said.

    A huge animal response was mobilized six years ago along the U.S. gulf coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Alex Chernavsky from Rochester, New York was among thousands of people who went to the New Orleans area.  He says time was critical in the rescue effort. "There were a fairly large number of animals rescued at the beginning.  But then the longer you went, the harder it was to get the remaining ones," he said.

    Chernavsky says he was involved in some of the more difficult rescues. "What we were doing was getting the animals that were tough to get, which means if they were running loose outside they might be hard to catch or they were still trapped inside houses," he said.

    Pet owners who were rescued themselves were not allowed by authorities to take their animals with them.  That policy has changed after Hurricane Katrina.  Bernard Unti of the Humane Society says another lesson learned is how well some animals can survive under extreme conditions.

    "From Katrina we learned new facts about the capacity of certain animal species and certain individual animals to survive without food and relatively limited water for weeks and weeks.  In a sense, we had to rewrite the animal physiology textbooks after Katrina.  And then we saw not just the physical survival but obviously the will to survive that is so strong in all creatures," he said.

    Strong survival instincts help animals live through disasters and give responders more time to find them.  But Alex Chernavsky says being prepared ahead of time helps pets the most.

    "Pet owners should have carriers ready to go for any cats they have.  If dogs are small enough to fit in a carrier, then they should have those prepared so that they can evacuate on short notice.  If they think they might get holed up in their house, they should have a stockpile of enough food and water to last at least a week or two.  Most people do not do that," he said.

    Microchip identification technology was not in widespread use at the time of Hurricane Katrina, and most animals rescued were never reunited with their owners.  Microchips can now help the process, and Unti says that couples well with practical measures in emergency preparedness.

    "You should have your animal properly [identified] if not micro-chipped and properly collared and tagged. You should always have a ready-to-go kit with emergency supplies and veterinary history and veterinary care information, basic medication. Learn the tricks of the trade for animals in the event that you are forced by whatever circumstance to leave [them] behind, leave water running, leave lots of food in the bathtub," he said.

    He adds that animal rescue efforts Japan will need worldwide help from donations. "The long-term needs for recovery of animal care infrastructure in Japan are going to be very great. We really want to encourage people to invest their dollars in organizations with a good track record in international disaster response," he said.

    Complicating efforts in Japan is the nuclear radiation threat caused by damage to nuclear power plants. The immediate and long-term consequences are forcing animal rescue organizations to adapt to the crisis and adjust response measures.


    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.