HSI Grants support China Earthquake Relief
May 22, 2008
On May 12, 2008, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit north of Chengdu, China, killing more than 40,000 people, injuring hundreds of thousands and leaving millions homeless.
In response, Humane Society International is offering aid in the form of two grants to help animals and those working with them in the affected area. One will go to the US China Environmental Foundation, with which we've partnered in the past, to support the famous Wolong Panda Research Institute' located just 20 miles from the quake' s epicenter. The other grant will go to the Chinese Embassy in Washington as a gesture of HSI' s concern and goodwill during this difficult time. HSI is also offering the government assistance in humanely managing dog populations in the affected area.
Staff Dead; Pandas Missing
Contrary to earlier reports that all were safe, the UK Telegraph states that the earthquake apparently killed five Wolong staff members and damaged or destroyed all of the facility' s panda houses. A massive search for 1,600 wild pandas missing in Sichuan province, including three from Wolong, is underway. Sadly, a senior administrator of the Institute died while helping with rescue efforts. Supplies including bamboo have started to arrive, but much help is still needed.
Report on the Scene
According to Peter Li, a consultant for HSI, ' Things are very bad in the disaster areas. Chinese television stations are doing round-the-clock reports. Yesterday, China started a three-day national mourning for the disaster victims. China's diplomatic missions around the world are open for visitors to pay tribute to the deceased and to contribute money for relief work.'
Li relayed media reports and information from the past week: ' Both people and their animal companions are victims of this terrible disaster. A dog refused to leave his 73-year old owner who was buried for four days until her rescue,' he said. ' Two small dogs were rescued from under a pile of rubble by a rescue team sent from Taiwan. A Chengdu rescue operation has rescued 20 dogs and three cats from one disaster area. We have seen many reports of families seeking safety with their pets.'
Good News, and Bad
Many organizations including HSI are pitching in. A team of 20 people from Animals Asia Foundation went to the disaster area trying to help human victims; they took with them food for dogs and cats and a veterinarian, Li said. Hong Kong SPCA will be sending a vet and a program manager into Chengdu, the latter' s expenses covered by personal contributions from a generous board member of The Humane Society of the United States. ' There is great need of help in feeding rescued dogs and cats,' Li related.
On a less positive note, it has been reported that officials in Qingchuan have decided to round up and kill homeless dogs, fearing that these hungry animals could be aggressive toward humans and cause an outbreak of rabies. Reactions from Chinese dog lovers are already strong; comments posted on the Internet call for mercy for the dogs and ask for a different solution to be found. HSI is offering assistance in using humane and effective methods of controlling the canine population rather than culling the animals.
Meanwhile, little is known about the quake' s impact on the thousands of pig farms and water fowl farms in the area.
Remember the Animals
The Chinese government's rescue efforts are commendable. The entire nation stands behind the relief efforts. However, at the same time, these have failed to include non-human victims such as dogs. If animals had been taken into account in disaster planning, dog food and veterinary medicine could have been taken into the affected areas.
HSI is still hopeful that non-governmental organizations can help eliminate the possibility of a rabies outbreak. The fact that the Chinese government is allowing foreign rescue teams into the disaster areas suggests that the government is not adverse to the idea of including non-human victims in its relief plan. HSI will continue to monitor the situation and offer assistance.