IFAW convenes nuclear radiation expertsfor landmark animal rescue summit in Japan
Currently, there is limited information available for decontamination and/or treatment of animals affected by radiation, nor is there any standards established for determining when an animal has been exposed to an unsafe level of radiation. Little is known about the survivability of wildlife and pets – or the viability of farm animals – exposed to radiation.
The goal of the IFAW-led summit is to develop response procedures and protocols to monitor, evacuate, and treat animals contaminated by radiation. The subject matter experts will cover issues such as radiation exposure, animal physiology, animal behavior, animal rescue and evacuation techniques, animal decontamination, animal sheltering and husbandry, wildlife habitat and rehabilitation, and human responder safety.
The committee includes representatives from the Japanese Ministry of Environment, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): APHIS Animal Care and Wildlife Services, United States Army Veterinary Corps, veterinary and toxicology experts, academicians, and IFAW.
“We have been interviewing people from the evacuated towns and we’ve seen video evidence of a large number of animals, including livestock, horses, and companion animals that have been left behind,” said Dr. Dick Green, IFAW Disaster Manager. “We can’t turn a blind eye to Japan’s abandoned animals that have not received adequate food or water for more than a month and continue to receive dangerous levels of radiation.”
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 caused serious damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant resulting in its inability to keep the nuclear reactors cool. After radiation was detected outside of the plant, the government of Japan declared a mandatory evacuation of residents within a 20km radius of the plant and residents within 30km radius have been strongly encouraged to evacuate.
Research in the U.S. following a disaster has shown that as many as 30% of evacuees will attempt to re-enter a disaster zone to rescue their pet.
“By removing those animals that can be safely decontaminated from the evacuation zone and reuniting them with their families, there will be a significant reduction in the number of people attempting to re-enter the danger zone - putting their own lives at risk,” added Dr. Green.
While the recommendations are developed, an immediate animal relief plan has been recommended to Japanese authorities that includes setting up feeding stations in the 20-30km zones, providing decontamination training to veterinary teams, positioning transport equipment in strategic staging areas and readying animal shelters for the influx of evacuated animals.