Moving to Sumatra: Earthquake Leaves Animals In Need
The day we flew into Padang the sun was shining and sparkling off the west coast ocean, palm trees lined thin white sand beaches and seas of bright green rice fields surrounded the distant mountains. The sunshine and welcoming feeling of Padang would have never led you to believe that destruction lay just beyond the mountains in the distance.
Our first step in getting to the disaster site to begin an assessment of the area was to meet with the West Sumatran government official for animal welfare, Dr. Erinaldi. Before the earthquakes, he initialized a considerably large rabies vaccination program. If we had never arrived and met with Dr. Erinaldi we would have never known hundreds of animals in West Sumatra are tested positive for rabies every month! Unlike Jakarta, village areas in Sumatra tend to have very large populations of dogs.
Escorted by government transport we began our journey to Solok, the epicenter of the earthquake. From here we would meet with local veterinarians and begin planning for assessment and rescue.
In a matter of 40 minutes we met with almost every high ranking official in Solok; Dept. of Agriculture veterinarians, police chiefs and the Governor himself. Clearly nothing along the lines of animal rescue has ever been conducted in this area before as many were surprised and very interested in why we had come so far. Everyone was extremely grateful and gave us their blessings to begin our work.
Solok is a town that lies in the valley of a “ring of fire”. Coming over the peak of the mountain we climbed from Padang we could see Solok in its entirety sprawled over the lowness of the valley. All around are mountains and active volcanoes, it’s no wonder why Solok suffered the effects of these earthquakes (I’m saying “earthquakes” because tremors are actually still happening – my bed shook the other morning!).
It was dark by the time we began to drive around the city, but it wasn’t difficult to see what a 10 second earthquake can do. One home will have completely collapsed on itself, the roof covering all possible entries, while the home right next to it will be standing with no wounds at all.
The most memorable part of my first night in Solok was being asked by the veterinary staff to explain animal behavior to them. Many animals, particularly livestock, are stressed physically and mentally. Many have not eaten since the “big” earthquake. Many stressful environmental factors existed before the earthquake as well; however most of them have gone unnoticed. So, for pet and livestock owners and the local veterinary team to ask for a better understanding of animal behavior and simple solutions to stress, that in itself was worth coming so far.