On 4 December 2022, Mount Semeru—the tallest volcano on Java—erupted, burying villages in layers of ash. In response, IFAW sent emergency funding to the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), which deployed teams to help communities evacuate, rescue, and care for nearly 1,000 animals in need.
Disasters like landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions are frequent occurrences on Java and nearby islands.
When Mount Semeru erupted in 2021, the support in place for animals on the island during disasters was minimal. Most affected families decided not to evacuate their livestock, risking their animals’ lives as well as their own. Owners had to travel back regularly to care for their animals, and some refused to leave their homes altogether.
But when COP, with support from IFAW, stepped in to help care for animals in evacuation centers, providing fresh water, food, and veterinary care, the local authorities and communities got to see first-hand the benefits of evacuating animals.
When the volcano erupted again in 2022, there was a clear shift in the attitude toward livestock evacuation—this time, most farmers on the island opted to evacuate with their animals, with the help of COP and the authorities.
“We often find that if you evacuate the animals, the people will follow,” says Jennifer Gardner, disaster resilience manager at IFAW. “This approach has been proven as a successful way to motivate people to evacuate.”
including animals in disaster plans
Recently, a training event held on the nearby island of Bali on International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (October 13, 2022) focused on including animals in disaster preparedness. Residents of Bonyoh, a small town on the island situated between two volcanos, gathered to practice evacuation and first response techniques created by the local Community Disaster Management Group. They also participated in exercises to construct emergency shelters and safely load and unload cows and goats from evacuation vehicles.
The training was a collaboration between IFAW and the Bali Animal Welfare Association.
“Many individuals or families refuse to leave their animals behind when evacuation orders are given. Including animals in disaster plans in communities like Bonyoh can mean the difference between life and death for some people,” says Gardner.