Sunday, June 16, 2013

Disasters – Another Perspective

Whether it is war, fires, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods or chemical plant explosions, it seems that the numbers of disasters are increasing.  And the scope of these disasters seem to greater than they have been in the past.  Sometimes there is advance warning, allowing people to escape, other times there isn’t time.  The news reports are generally the same:  how many buildings or homes were destroyed, how many people were injured or killed.  Reports on the complete toll documented.  I’m talking about the non-human animals who are injured, lost or killed.  Even when there is some warning for the animals (smoke in the air), the animals can’t outrun the fire nor can they find shelter from the storm.  Floods, tornadoes and hurricanes don’t provide any warnings in advance for the dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, horses or wildlife.  Then there are those in captivity, at rescue facilities, zoos and aquaria.  

tiger in Bagdad Zoo

Some of you will find fault with my concern for the non-human animals.  I will admit that I have a heightened concern for them.  For some, they didn’t choose where they live – they are in that location because of humans.  For native wildlife, this is their home.  This is where their food supply is, where their dens and nests are.  They can’t hop in a car and drive to the nearest evacuation shelter or hotel/motel.  More often than not, animals of any kind aren’t welcome in evacuation shelters or hotels/motels.

How many of you even give a thought to the turtles, lizards, flightless birds and insects in the path of these monstrous disasters?  What about the caged animals, trapped in those cages who can’t escape.  Evacuating captive animals – rescued dogs and cats or those wild animals on display for our entertainment in zoos and aquaria?  What about the dogs, cats, birds, fish, hamsters, gerbils and other so-called pets left behind when their human families flee?  Sometimes their stories are told, after the disaster has passed, but more often than not their fear, panic, pain and deaths go unreported, unnoticed.  I still remember my horror and outrage at the time of the great Yellowstone fires when the reports said “there were no fatalities.”  Wildlife managers even said that the wildlife fled the fires.  No one with an ounce of intelligence could possibly believe that every or even most animals could escape.  All we have to think about is the natural behavior of animals when danger is sensed.  Bear cubs react to a threat by climbing the nearest tree.  Baby birds, not yet fledged, are trapped in their nests.  Just how fast can a turtle or a lizard run?  Can they outrun a raging forest fire?  I think not.  Others will retreat to their underground dens, which during a flood, serves as a death trap.  I realize that it isn’t possible to save wildlife in advance of an approaching disaster, but I rail against the insensitivity of reports of “no deaths” in the aftermath.  It isn’t simply human life that has value.  

Adding to my anger is that we humans have left little wild habitat for wildlife. We continue to encroach upon what little remains.  We give little or no thought when more wild lands are gobbled up to build more and more homes.  We further insure the demise of native species by fragmenting their native habitat, limiting the number who can find enough food, sufficient territory and mates.  The fewer the individuals of a species, the more limited is the gene pool.  The Florida panther is a perfect example of a species in decline because of how all of the above have guaranteed the doom of this species found only in Florida.  The male panthers have damaged hearts and usually only one descended testicle, limiting their ability to breed.  These were regressive genes, but due to limited access to mates has made these genetic abnormalities dominant instead of regressive and therefore of rare occurrence.  

While I sympathize with those families who have lost their homes, their possessions and family members and friends they, at least, have options.  Picking up the pieces and starting over are traumatic and difficult.  However, they had access to insurance, federal and state aid, along with support from many non-profits to help them get their lives back together.  While there are more and more non-profits and individuals who respond to help the lost and displaced non-human animals (mostly domesticated animals), what about the wild animals who survived?  They have no shelters or food sources since all of these have been destroyed in the disaster.  If they survive many, if not most, will either starve or end up as food for predators.  There is no place for them to go – they don’t have the option of moving in with family – their habitat, the only home they have ever known is utterly destroyed.  

I hope as you follow the news about the latest disaster you will include in your concern the non-human animals whose lives have been impacted as well.   Expand your sphere of compassion to include all of the lives damaged or ended, all too often due to human greed, stupidity or selfishness.  There are always innocent lives not counted in the death toll.

For further reading about non-human animals and disasters, check out these links:

The Bagdad Zoo and the death of Lawrence Anthony, who helped save the remaining animals following the American invasion of Iraq.  And the NPR interview.

And The Eco Cat Lady Speaks asks on her blog - What Would You Save?

And some animal rescue sites:

After Japan's tsunami, the rescue continues:

Black Forest fire links here:



  1. When there's nothing a person can do about something, like the aftermath for animals in the case of forest fires, floods, tornados, and war, I would rather not think about it. I can't read articles anymore about disasters and not think about the animals involved. But what can I do about it? Nothing. So is it better to flood my mind with more sadness? I think about fire here, and what I would do, since I would not have a pray of getting all the cats out. I think about the 4th of July coming up because already around this neighborhood, illegal fireworks are going off every night and the police do not stop it. If they start a fire, and my yard trees catch, it is a churning worry, because when someone loses their house, and their pets are killed in the fire, people often say, well stuff can be replaced and so can your pets. And that's so much bullshit. I have a fire evac plan but it would not get them all out quickly enough. I am going to build a chute I could lower out the window to increase the speed I could drop out carriers with cats, if I had to. My plan of action includes a quick sweep through the house, driving cats out of rooms, closing the door behind, and out into the cat yard, from where I have an escape door. After that though, they'd likely die on the streets of the neighborhood.

    1. There is so little any of us can do, especially in far away places. I too worry about evacuating my critters. I have a couple of ferals in the house & have no idea how I could catch them in time - or at all. And I'd need a giant commercial van to fit them all in. My plan? Just die with them.

    2. But HOW does one not think about it? Im ruining my life being sick with worry for the animals on a daily basis. Any ideas?

  2. One of the most heartwarming stories to come out of our recent wildfires was the firefighter who stopped what he was doing to rescue a baby fawn that he found hopelessly tangled in a wire fence where it apparently got caught as it tried to flee.

    I can't help but wonder what happened to the mother, and what anguish she must have felt having to leave her baby behind.

    There were also stories of people who couldn't get their horses out either because they didn't have a trailer or because the horse was a rescue animal who wasn't trained to go in a trailer so they couldn't get it loaded. Many people actually spray painted their phone numbers right onto the horse and just set it free in hopes that it would somehow survive.

    It all just makes me want to cry.

    1. Honestly my biggest frustrations are those people who grab their "stuff" and leave the animals trapped in the home when they flee to safety. And then how the media ignores the complete death toll - not even so much as mentioning that wildfires are killing wildlife in "uninhabited areas." Those forests are filled with living animals who are killed - so few escape. Even if they do they are often hit by cars as they flee to safety.

  3. I always think of the animals, pets and wildlife that are affected by these disasters. It's heartwarming to hear the odd good outcome like the man and his cat who swam to safety in the Calgary flood recently. But you just know there were others who didn't or couldn't save their animals. Climate change is real, the effects have been predicted so there will be more extreme weather events, floods and fires in the future. Very sad.

    1. Thanks for visiting & commenting Northmoon. There are quite a few people who care about the animals & step in to help rescue them in the aftermath. There aren't a lot of happy endings & when there are they aren't always reported.

      And, yes, climate change is real. Those who deny it, at least those in power, are only doing it to protect their own interests. The Koch Brothers, for example, aren't stupid but for them everything is about amassing more money & more power. They've funded so-called scientists to deny climate change and the think tanks & many elected officials. Money = Power. If more people would "follow the money" they might change their minds about who is lying & who speaks the truth.

  4. Connie, are you ok? No peeps from you in awhile.

  5. Long story/haven't felt like writing or reading. I've been out on workers' comp since July 16th. More to follow in the near future, I hope.

    BTW, that tux from next door is adorable. As always, you take such wonderful photos.

  6. I hope you're going to be ok. Yes, he is so sweet and beautiful.