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(The Hague, 21 July 2023) – Wildfires that have blazed through Greece for several days - the direct result of climate change and extreme temperatures - have displaced thousands of people and countless animals.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) is rushing aid to ANIMA, a non-profit association that operates the main First Aid Station for wildlife in Greece. The center treats thousands of wounded and orphaned wild animals, before releasing them back into the wild. IFAW’s support will provide veterinary care for burnt animals, medicine and food.
"The situation in Greece is terrible. At one point, there were about 50 fires raging earlier this week," says Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Program Director for Disaster Response & Risk Reduction in Europe at IFAW. "We are in touch with local organizations, and I read about one shelter in Lagonisi, southern Greece that was destroyed by fires, where many animals died. Two volunteers risked their lives, jumping into the flames and were able to rescue seven dogs and a cat, all of them suffering from burn injuries."
Wildfires destroy the habitats and food sources of wildlife and cause mass mortalities in wild animal populations during and after disasters. Animals that are injured or searching for food or shelter after extreme events may also enter human-populated areas, which can pose a risk to both humans and animals.
Sissler-Bienvenu adds: "In some of the affected forest areas, burnt tortoises have been observed, as the slow-moving reptiles simply couldn’t outrun the flames."
Greece has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to receive support from other countries. The Ministry of Interior, via their Special Secretariat for the Protection of Companion Animals, sent out messaging via social media urging citizens to evacuate with their animals preventatively or call for help to rescue and transport animals with trucks. IFAW commends the Secretariat for their animal rescue support efforts, which set an example for other European countries.
As climate change causes wildfires, floods and droughts to hit more frequently and furiously than ever before, IFAW advocates for the improvement of disaster management policies and planning in Europe. "What we're seeing across Europe is frightening with relentless heat waves scorching the landscape," says Sissler-Bienvenu. "These defenseless animals are victims of the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. Incorporating animals into disaster management plans must be essential as we move forward in a world which is rapidly changing."
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