Disasters are escalating in both frequency and severity, unleashing devastation on a scale that is sadly becoming all too familiar. Humans are not alone in facing the resultant outcomes of these ongoing natural disasters — animals and wildlife are also forced to share the same burdens, enduring an aftermath that can result in widespread death and long-term habitat destruction. IFAW’s new report, Beyond Rescue: Animals in Disasters, highlights the work of IFAW’s Disaster Response & Risk Reduction team on the ground in the United States, stresses the importance of including animal disaster relief in more broad emergency disaster response efforts, and offers a blueprint of how we can all better prepare in the future.
On this shared stage of a dynamic earth, it is no surprise that natural disasters are a fact of life, a burden shared by both ourselves as well as the planet’s animals. In the era of climate change, it is also evident that humankind has aggravated the planetary system, pushing imbalances and testing the natural timeframes of the earth to self-regulate.
Animals also suffer during disasters
Disasters are escalating in both frequency and severity, unleashing devastation on a scale that is sadly becoming all too familiar. Within this context, we must fully understand that humans are not alone in facing the resultant outcomes of these ongoing natural disasters. Animals and all wildlife are at the mercy of these events, forced to endure the aftermath that can produce widespread death, habitat fragmentation and destruction, as well as the onset of a new way of life. One key difference is that animals do not have the social support mechanisms of human society that, while imperfect, are immensely critical in such times of need. It is this need, which IFAW and its immensely talented Disaster Response & Risk Reduction (DRRR) team, has stepped in to meet.
How ifaw's animal disaster relief efforts help wildlife & humans
For over four decades, IFAW has responded to disasters both domestic and abroad, steadfast in its commitment to each individual animal. And why? Because each individual matters. They matter in the context of conservation and they matter due to the inherent value that we place on animals and their inextricable link to the wellbeing of our human community. Whether through rehabilitating injured animals, reintroducing wildlife back into its natural environment, or reuniting families with their companion animals, IFAW works to return a sense of normalcy as well as hope to both human and animal communities that suddenly find themselves in upheaval as a result of a natural disaster.
It cannot go without mention that our world is also grappling with yet another disaster—one that has upended fundamental aspects of our lives. From changes in our daily routines to basic norms of social interaction, our lives are now different.
Animal disaster relief efforts must adapt to new challenges
Indeed, layered atop the climate woes of the 21st century, this report is being published in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—not the first of its kind, but certainly one of the broadest and most socially widespread pandemics in our modern existence. And as such, IFAW’s DRRR efforts must evolve to meet such challenges. Though many of us have taken both our personal and professional lives almost fully virtual since the beginning of quarantine, disasters are unmistakable in their physicality. Thus, responders must act in person to provide the most effective relief possible, even though zoonotic disease and the ease of its spread immensely complicates this response for all involved. What does a multispecies evacuation look like while maintaining social distancing? Such questions may not be fully answered for some time as we make our way through this new world. One thing is certain, however---that no one was fully prepared for a pandemic and disease is one type of global disaster that modern society has tended to dismiss and ignore. We cannot go down this same path.
The work the IFAW team does both on-site and behind the scenes is critical, as are the lessons learned, for those are the lessons that will guide us as we propose and implement solutions to reduce the suffering of both people and animals in disasters yet to be faced. As disasters are a shared burden, let us ensure that our solutions provide a shared relief. To your safety and to the future.
Azzedine Downes President & CEO, IFAW
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