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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.