Efforts Intensify as IFAW Rescues Animals Stranded for More Than a Week
Yesterday we had a very successful day out in Laguna. This town is located approximately 1.5 hours south of the capital city of Manila. The region sits next to a huge lake, beautiful scenery, but not the place you want to be when a Typhoon strikes. In two days, the water level rose in a flash and flooded many of the coastal communities. Some locals expect the flood will continue for the next two months! To assess and rescue animals impacted in this region, we had to source a number of boats. Unlike the floods in much of the city, the water in this rural landscape was much deeper, so it was impossible to suit up and cover the area by trucks or on foot.
Luckily, a boat club learned about our rescue work over the Internet and soon volunteered their time together with 4 boats and 1 kayak to help us reach animals in need. It’s inspiring to meet people like them; they have put their daily lives on hold to help in rescue efforts following Typhoon Ketsana. The day after the storm hit, they were out on their boats pulling people to safety and just a few days ago they were helping the Red Cross in relief efforts conducted in Manila. For more than a week now they have offered their resources and time – true heroes that rose to the occasion, no questions asked.
One of their more valuable assets is an Air Boat, a propeller-powered boat that glides through the surface and can navigate through all the debris produced by the storm, much like those used in the Florida Everglades. This proved a vital resource in Tuesday’s rescues. To cover the large area of Laguna, we split into 4 different groups. In all, there were 22 rescuers on the water, all orchestrated by IFAW team leaders: Brenda Stanton, Dick Green, Rich Crook, and Carl Boyle. Once again staff and volunteers from PAWS (Philippines Animal Welfare Society) joined us in the rescues. The city was divided into 4 sections and at the end of the day, every flooded street and alley was covered. Food was distributed for dozens of animals and their human caretakers and vets provided care for those with medical conditions. Some of the more exciting work occurred in the very limits of the lake town, areas where the water was so deep that stranded pets were unable to jump from roof to roof and too weak to swim to safety.
We first found 2 kittens, probably 2 or 3 weeks old stranded on the roof of a small wooden hut. These cats were scared, dehydrated and emaciated. They had not had anything to eat in a week and had survived by drinking the little rainwater that accumulated on the rooftop. As we approached them, they quickly hid behind the rafters. They were feral cats and taking them to safety would be a little harder than simply carrying them on the boat. My colleagues Dick and Carl took some food out and in a matter of seconds they were already poking their heads out of the sides of the hut and started devouring the food. With two swift extractions, Dick pulled the cats out of the inside of the hut and into a net held by Carl. It was a quick and painless maneuver that took the kittens by surprise. Their concern soon disappeared when they were offered more food to satisfy their hunger!
Another exciting rescue was that of 3 dogs living on two rooftops and a bamboo barge full of ducks. It was clear that someone was boating out every day to provide feed for the ducks, but the only way the dogs were surviving was by eating duck feces and drinking rainwater. Needless to say, these 3 dogs were literally a day or two from passing away. They were just skin and bones and extremely traumatized by their ordeal. They dove into the water and swam off as we approached with the boats but thanks to the skills of our capture team, we were able to pluck these dogs out of the water and into safety. Two of the dogs are already making an incredible recovery. Back at the rehabilitation center, they are eating and already show positive signs. Sadly, the other poor little one is still struggling. He has slept for two consecutive days and although he is cared for by experienced vets 24/7, this disaster might have been too much for him to endure. The next 48 hours will be decisive and we are all pulling for him, he has already gone through so much.
Stay tuned for more on IFAW’s work in the Philippines. As we enter week 2 of operations, we visit new impacted areas, some of which have not received any aid since the Typhoon struck. For more information on how you can help save animals impacted by disasters around the world, go to www.ifaw.org.