Government of Japan launches animal evacuation operation in Fukushima

Friday, 13 May, 2011
Yarmouth Port, MA
A day after receiving a detailed report that included protocols to safely monitor, evacuate and treat animals contaminated by radiation, the Government of Japan launched an operation to remove abandoned animals from inside the 20km evacuation zone in Fukushima Prefecture. The report was the result of an International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW- led summit that convened subject matter experts in Tokyo earlier this month to find ways to rescue the animals that were left behind. The Japanese Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) participated in the summit as observers.

“The animals of Fukushima have been in our thoughts since the disaster struck. We’re incredibly relieved to learn that Japan has begun this rescue effort,” said Dr. Dick Green, IFAW Manager for Disasters. “The team of veterinarians and officials from the Ministry of Environment are following our Committee’s recommendations aimed at ensuring safety for both animals and people.”

Termed ‘Temporary Coming Home Project’, officials are allowing residents back into the evacuated zone and including animal rescue as part of the campaign. The Ministry of Environment is cooperating with Fukushima Prefecture authorities and coordinating with the Emergency Animal Headquarters to execute this operation.

Since its start date on Tuesday May 10, teams removed at least 27 dogs and two cats from the danger zone. Following the Committee’s recommendations, careful monitoring and decontamination efforts are in place before pets are transported to shelters.

Rescuers expect different levels of radioactivity in animals depending on location. “So far, the results of the screenings have shown that there are no animals at the level for which decontamination has been necessary,” said Konishi Yutaka, Office of Animal Companionship, Nature Conservation Bureau, Japan Ministry of Environment. “Whenever we encounter rescued animals at the level needing decontamination, we will follow the recommendations in the Committee’s report.”

According to reports, officials in Fukushima have also allowed evacuees to bring pets out of the danger zone and continue to live with them in temporary housings that are being made available.

Rescue teams are expected to evacuate between 100-200 companion animals this week. “We encourage authorities to continue these efforts and hopefully help hundreds more,” added Dr. Green.

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