Cooperation marks successful post Haiyan animal rescue training in the Philippines

Participants of IFAW's Emergency Relief Network (ERN) workshop worked together to learn new skills and improve animal rescue efforts.

When the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) holds an Emergency Relief Network (ERN) workshop we like to make it as practical and realistic as possible.

Imagine training in a village located on the ridge of an active volcano in the Philippines!

To make it even more exciting, our hands-on technical rescue workshop was held in Taal Lake which is a large volcanic caldera that even has an active volcano-island near the center of the lake.

Following our disaster response to Super Typhoon Haiyan IFAW proposed a follow-up, hands-on training to mitigate capacity gaps among animal rescue agencies and organizations.

We invited our partners from the Animal Relief and Rehabilitation in the Philippines (ARRPh) coalition as well as others who want to increase their skill sets to help animals in disasters. It is a perfect scenario for the IFAW Emergency Relief Network (ERN) model that has successfully brought together key stakeholders in the United States and India.

The ERN forms a framework to increase collaboration and cooperation among government agencies and non-governmental organizations working for a common mission. We provide a structure composed of standardized training and best practices for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery at the local level.

Workshop participants included government and non-government agency members, from the Philippines and Indonesia, who all worked together to improve their animal rescue techniques.

In beautiful Tagaytay, Philippines we held a four-day ERN Workshop on Animals in Disasters. The temperatures were in the high 90’s but the participants did not seem to mind; they were focused and committed to learn and work together.

We were able to engage over 30 representatives from four different government agencies and 11 non-governmental organizations active across the country and Indonesia as well, including our long-time partners the Philippines Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

The first two days of the Workshop were held in a classroom where we covered topics such as Emergency Management, Disasters in the Philippines, Incident Command System (ICS), Field Assessment, and an orientation of the ERN Model. Additional topics were more hands-on, like the Introduction to Technical Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue, Animal Behavior and Humane Handling, Veterinary Field Triage, and Animal Decontamination. 

Everyone also participated in a round table discussion on the Super Typhoon Haiyan disaster response reflecting on lessons learned and how we can all work together even better when, not if, the next catastrophic disaster strikes the Philippines.

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The following days of the Workshop were attended by all organizations and we could have easily filled another class from all of the interest.

We moved the classroom right on the water of Taal Lake. Hands-on scenarios included Boat Operation, Field Assessment, ICS, Responder Rescue, Basic Rope Rescue, and Animal Rescue using nets and alternative methods of humane capture. Participants spent a majority of each day on or in the water putting their new skills to the test.

Everyone worked seamlessly with the common mission of helping animals in disasters; regardless of what color t-shirt they were wearing from their organization.

Workshop participants conducting a training exercise in Taal Lake.

My colleague, Jennifer Gardner, responded to Typhoon Haiyan and worked alongside many of the organizations in attendance.  “I saw the dedication these individuals had to the communities and animals affected,” said Jennifer.

“I knew that this training would not only provide an opportunity for attendees to improve their own skills in responding to animals in disasters, but they would also see how each group can fulfill different roles during a disaster for an even more effective overall response. The workshop met these goals and attendees were overwhelmingly asking for additional training opportunities to work together.”


I am so proud of the teams that came together during the workshop. The main goal of increasing capacity for local organizations before, during, and after a disaster was unanimously accomplished thanks to the open minds and hearts of our participants.

We also could not have continued this momentum without our IFAW team of instructors and Southeast Asia ERN Coordinator May Felix Razon. Two of our instructors, John Maretti and Norm Rosene, are members of our USA ERN partner North Valley Animals in Disaster Group based in California. They provided excellent guidance and support for the participants on land as well as in the water – we are grateful to have such strong ERN partners that excel when sharing our mission around the globe.

I am also grateful to our supporters at the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for making this trip such a success.

I will miss the breathtaking views of the Philippines filled with such proud history and culture. The people are so resilient, having survived and grown stronger one disaster after another.

Their spirit of appreciation for living each day to the fullest is contagious and will continue to drive our efforts here to help animals in disasters along with the people who cannot imagine their lives without them.


For more information about IFAW Animal Rescue efforts, visit our campaign page.

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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