Disaster management for Animals: Are we ready?

Pashu Sandesh, 27th August 2018

Recent devastating floods in Kerala have rendered many heartwarming stories of Animal rescue but at the same time it has split open a very pertinent and disaster management scenario for the Animals in the Indian scenario. The Big Question is are we ready for the disaster Management for the Animals?

We heard the story with awe, how a woman named Sunitha was stuck in her house in Thrissur, one of the worst-hit districts in Kerala. But she refused to leave the building unless her dogs (around 20-25), all strays or abandoned pets, were taken too. The rescue team eventually had to leave the woman at the site as there were many people waiting to be rescued. It’s clear from the event that the rescue team had very clear and specific orders of rescue of Human only which obviously is the priority if one has to choose between a Human life and an Animal’s life. The plans of the Government definitely involve Human first and Animals later approach.  This Animals latter approach means by the time Government Machinery start making plans for the Animals rescue many would have been already perished.

The loss of Animals data as presented by the  state Government , more than 8,000 cattle, calves and buffaloes, 3,297 goats and 47 dogs have died in the floods. Animal data obviously only talking about the Livestock and Dogs but what about other animals including wild Animals??? The proportion and magnitude of loss of Animal lives would be much bigger and devastating.  

Last year in Assam, the Kaziranga National Park had lost 361 animals, including 31 rhinos and 9 elephants in the floods. Incidentally Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO world Heritage site. At that time too the Government Machinery proved inadequate and many NGOs lend Helping hands for the rescue of the Wild Animals.

This time in Kerala too biggest animal rescue operations at the time of this natural calamity, hundreds of volunteers and animal rescue workers have travelled to flood-affected areas. Three animalNGOs - People for Animals, Hands for Paws and Street Dog Watch, have joined forces to form Save Animals Kerala, a collective initiative to help rescue, rehabilitate and provide medical assistance to flood affected animals throughout Kerala. Also helping out with the rescue work for animals is Animal Warriors India, a group of animal activists from Hyderabad. Members of Animal Warriors India are trained in tactical rescue of animals. Rescuers have waded through water, and travelled on boats and rafts to treat, feed and rescue hundreds of animals - dogs, cats, goats, cows, cattle, ducks, and even snakes - as the waters have begun receding. Trucks with animal feed and medicines are reaching affected districts.

There is no doubt that the Animal Husbandry department of the Kerala is doing their part in the rescue and rehabilitation of Animals. The Animal Husbandry Department has opened 25 camps in flood-affected panchayats in Kollam, offering assistance to farmers in distress.  According to preliminary data the animal husbandry department has incurred a loss of Rs 110 crores due to deaths of animals and birds during the deluge. A whopping 10,000 (approx) livestock died in the worst ever flood witnessed by the state, according to Dr NN Sasi, director, animal husbandry department. The loss due to cattle deaths has been pegged at Rs 50 crore. Hundreds of Veterinary doctors are working day and night to provide Medical care to the rescued Animals. TANUVAS has contributed in the animal relief operations by providing Medicines and Veterinary tactical support.

 But the point remain is that we are lacking a proper execution of the Disaster Management plan for the Animals. In 2016 National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), World Animal Protection and Policy Perspectives Foundation (PPF) had launched in a two day workshop the National Disaster Management Plan integrating Animals in the plan. National Livestock Disaster Management Plan for the Department of Animal Husbandry was also launched with the idea of syncing animal protection into the heart of disaster management. The Plan also incorporates training of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel in the rescue of Animals along with humans. But the pictures coming out of the Kerala speaks on the contrary.  Majority of the rescue operations carried out in the flood affected regions are by the Animal lovers and the NGOs who took upon themselves the arduous task of Animal Rescue.

Recently a 10 day training course was organized on the Disaster Management in Livestock, by the Rajasthan University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (RAJUVAS) for the Jawans of the Rajasthan State Disaster Response Force.  But the need of the hour is the organizing many such training programs in all the states by the Veterinary Universities with the focus on not only saving the Livestock but also the Wild Life which brings into a role for Wild life Institute of India (WII) too.  

This natural calamity is certainly not the first and definitely not the last. As we are seeing unprecedented changes in the Global Climate, it is certain that in the future we would face many more and even more devastating natural calamities. What is the need of the hour is the Central and State policy on the Disaster Management for Animals. We need to allocate resources specifically for the rescue of the Animals.  There should be a greater coordination between Government and Private Agencies.  We may need the cutting edge training in the rescue of the Animals. We may form the subcategories for the rescue of Livestock and Pet Animals and the rescue of the Wild Animals. Loss of livestock would directly affect the livelihoods and the loss of Wild animals would be a loss of our national Heritage.