Animal Rescue team deploys as volcano Mayon threatens Philippines

Philippine Governor Jose Salceda has asked IFAW for help in response to a possible eruption of volcano Mayon.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the most difficult types of disasters to prepare for, especially when they have a history like the Mayon, the Philippines’ most active volcano having erupted nearly 50 times in the past 400 years.

But for Governor Jose Salceda of the Albay Province, he takes this challenge on as an opportunity to be a leader in disaster response. 

And he has asked for IFAW’s help.

We are on our way to support Gov. Saceda’s efforts for a zero human-fatality event. The Governor’s progressive approach to keeping his community safe by recognizing the reasons why people return to their homes despite the inherent danger of entering evacuation zones makes him a leader in disaster preparedness.

We believe that having a comprehensive evacuation plan before a disaster strikes is key to keeping people and animals safe. 

In 2009, the Mayon volcano threatened families who live in communities along its slopes as it began spewing smoke and rocks.  The governor implemented a mandatory evacuation for the areas’ nearly 50,000 residents.

When farmers refused to evacuate because they did not want to leave their animals behind, Gov. Salcedo asked for IFAW’s guidance on how to create an evacuation plan for animals. 

IFAW sent a team, and together they found locations to house animals, developed protocols for these temporary shelters, and successfully evacuated animals living in the at-risk areas. The Mayon volcano eventually decreased in activity without having a large eruption- one of the mysteries of volcanoes. 

“It proved quite a challenge back then to evacuate all the animals inside a 74km radius from the volcano and identify adequate shelter sites for farm and companion animals,” said IFAW’s Gail A’Brunzo.

“In the end, the community was relieved to know their animals were being correctly identified for future reunion and kept safe. It’s exciting to see our team heading back there and know that the plan is put into action once again.”


Using the plan created in 2009, Gov. Salceda began evacuating both people and animals last week when the office of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) increased the alert level to 3, indicating relatively high unrest and presence of magma at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks.

Reports indicated that around 20,000 animals, including cattle and carabao, a type of domestic water buffalo, were in the danger zone.

This week, Philvolcs warned of a worst-case scenario that could play out in a matter of days. The lava dome inside the crater is now more than 100 meters wide, with the height estimated to the equivalent of a 41-story building.

If an eruption occurs, the pyroclastic flow, with temperatures at 600°C, would flow at speeds of 60 kph and kill anything in its path.


Stay tuned for more information, photos, and updates from the field.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy