Animals Across South Asia in Danger after Tsunami Muddies Water, Kills Owners
BANGKOK, Thailand The tsunami that pounded South Asia last week has created a second tier of victims: animals.
Dogs are homeless in Thailand. Cows, water buffalo and goats have died in Sri Lanka. A number of farm animals are roaming destroyed grazing land and drinking polluted water since their owners have died, said Sherry Grant, Asia director for Humane Society International.
Humans and animals have a "dynamic connection," Grant said during a three-country tour of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
"The animals and their well-being ... connect to the humans because they are the providers" and can generate economic recovery, she said. Subsistence farmers "need those cattle, they need those oxen to pull their plows, to work those fields."
In India, the Blue Cross told the Humane Society that thousands of dead animals lined beaches after the tsunami struck. It also said that all the animals at the Point Calimere wildlife sanctuary, including 1,800 black buck, were probably dead.
In Thailand, wildlife rescuer Edwin Wiek said there were few victims, except for some overturned sea turtles and two dolphins that were catapulted a kilometer (half-mile) from the Andaman Sea into an inland lagoon.
Dogs are roaming what appear to be their hometowns in Thailand, some of which are devastated and lifeless after the tsunami killed thousands of people in the area. Wiek said volunteers have supplied 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds) of dog food in the last few days.
"I think they all knew something was coming and they fled to higher ground," said Wiek, director of the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Center.
Grant said she'll also travel to Aceh, Indonesia, where it's not clear what happened to animals since authorities closed off the area to foreign journalists and international aid workers more than a year ago due to separatist violence. Jakarta has eased the ban following the tsunami.
The Humane Society wants to determine what countries need in the wake of the disaster, which the United Nations estimated killed about 150,000 people in Asia and Africa.
"One of the concerns we have for the people and the animals is (that) while a farmer is trying to get himself back on his feet economically, he may not be able to feed those cows," Grant said. "And those cows are his livelihood."
To relieve the pressures, the Humane Society will likely provide financial aid, equipment, create dog feeding programs and clean watering holes.
Grant also noted that dogs were important companions for humans, but devastated families were now having to decide if they can feed one more mouth.
Dog owners in Phuket began dropping their pets off at a new shelter, which Grant said the government now can no longer afford to operate.
Dogs "fill the void of loneliness, and, my God, is there going to be some big voids in these families," she said.
Source: Associated Press