Animal Rescue operations underway in flooded Bihar, India

Monday, September 15, 2008

(Bihar, India. – 8 September 2008) –Entire villages have been washed away and thousands of people and livestock have been displaced in India’s northern state of Bihar after a burst dam and deadly monsoon rains hit the area last month.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and local volunteers deployed an Emergency Relief (ER) team and since their arrival they have treated and fed over 6000 starving livestock.
Working with government rescuers, the team, which includes veterinarians and animal care staff, have been making daily forays inside the flood hit zones by boat and where possible car.

"The footprint of the flood is huge and we have been concentrating only in a small but very badly affected area in the Araria and Supaul district," said Dr. Anjan Talukdar, IFAW team veterinarian. 

Although the water is slowly receding many people are unable to return home. Locals estimate the number of cattle in the area to be about 24,000 and some are still marooned and haven’t had access to food for three weeks. Another concern is the rotting carcasses of many animals could pose a serious threat of spreading disease. The ER team is travelling to marooned areas to help animals as well as educating animal owners on precautions to prevent worm infestations and disease outbreaks.  

"If animals don't get food for a long time they start losing interest in food and don't have the strength to eat. This is thus a vicious cycle which makes them weaker and therefore prone to infections and a slow death. So we need to first break this cycle by making them interested in food and once they have the strength to eat they will slowly regain their stamina," Dr Talukdar said.

"It is actually providential that the water continues to flow and is not stagnating, because stagnant water is the root cause of all infections and disease. I think we are looking at a long haul here. I don't see this situation stabilising for at least four months. Certain areas which have been completely devastated might take even longer," said Chandan Singh Executive Director for humanitarian NGO, GreenPower India, who has been active in the human relief effort and also has two veterinarians working with him.

Millions of people and cattle are staying in makeshift camps made out of plastic sheets and bamboo. The army and para-military forces have also put up tented camps.

Notes to Editors:

One of the farmers, Pradyut Jha is a farmer who stayed back at the Chainpur village with his cattle. The village looked like a tidal surge had gone through it. Whole trees had been uprooted. All the bamboo and mud huts had collapsed. The brick and mud houses were damp and dripping. Water was flowing through parts of the village. As the boats came close to the village, the IFAW team waded through waist deep water to get to get inside. Snakes swam away as they waded forward. The team found 10 cows and three goats on a platform with one recently dead cow amidst them. The animals were listless, mouthing some dry straw and looked very weak.

IFAW and the Wildlife Trust of India formed a partnership in 2000 to strengthen the cause of wildlife conservation and animal welfare in India. Through this collaboration, IFAW and WTI are developing strategies to find solutions to wildlife threats in India and the surrounding region.

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