Ginger Digest

Animal aftermath of the Nepal earthquake

Posted on 30th May, 2015: With more than 7,000 people dead, thousands missing and even more rendered homeless, and several dilapidated homes, business establishments and heritage and religious structures, Nepal is still reeling under the effects of the devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal last month.

Being a largely agrarian society Nepal has a large population of livestock. The quake struck a heavy blow to animals and particularly the livestock. Cows and goats in remote locations are the worst affected as help could not reach them sooner. Since shelters were built of make shift construction material, almost all of them were destroyed. The animals tethered inside were killed or badly injured. Some lost their shelters and were exposed to the elements for days which made many of them very sick.

Animal rescue missions

Although saving human life is the priority in a disaster-struck nation, accounting for the loss of animal life and alleviating the distress caused to them is vital. Many animal welfare organisations and pet-friendly locals are working with the authorities along with the international services to rescue and rehabilitate animals. Animal welfare workers from the Humane Society International were among the first to come to the aid of affected animals in this region.

According to the observations of some of their representatives, the local people were severely affected and since they were busy rebuilding their houses they did not have time to put their animals out to graze. So these animals were tied up for long hours making them restless and the restricted movement affected their physical and mental well-being.

Rahul Sehgal, from the Humane Society International, recalled the case of Purnima Tamang, who had lost her home and family but lived in the debris for the sake of her eight goats. “We met many such individuals who had lost everything and only had a few surviving animals. In this kind of a situation, they were really happy that animal help was available. It was touching to see this kind of connect that people and animals had,” he told Live Mint, “This did not make it difficult to choose between humans or animals. We were out there helping animals and people, the rescue was not an exclusive animal mission, we helped people to rehabilitate with as many resources we had.”

“There was a goat that was pulled from the rubble 16 days after the earthquake and I became very attached to that animal,” Dr John Skuja, a veterinarian from a team Australian vets who undertook a rescue mission in Nepal, told ABC News, “It didn't survive despite treatment and that was particularly heartbreaking for me. It was silly of me to become attached to a single case like that. The wider picture can seem hopeless and so you can focus on single little cases and put a lot of significance on them. I was slipping into some of those emotional traps of being in a disaster zone."

Even after the relief efforts have begun, there is a high possibility of infectious diseases spreading at such times due to unfavourable weather conditions, low immunity of animals and high stress levels. Some of the villages are so remote that veterinary or rescue teams cannot reach them. And since animals are a major source of livelihood in the villages of Nepal a lot of families have built temporary shelters around their camps to protect them.

Compassionate caregivers

Social media is abuzz with the compassionate gesture of animal-lover Gyani Deula an earthquake survivor. She is known as the dog mother of Kathmandu and living up to her reputation she organised a Hindu ritual in memory of the animals that died in the Nepal earthquake. She lives next to the Ganesh temple in Kamaladi near the centre of Kathmandu and always looked after the stray dogs in the area.

Many referred to her as the goddess who sits with her dog disciples sleeping all around her. She always treated her dogs with utmost care and allowed them to roam freely. Unable to deal with the death of some of her beloved canines, she wanted to do something for all the forgotten animals that perished in the earthquake and this funeral was her way to pay them respect.ple in Kamaladi near the centre of Kathmandu and always looked after the stray dogs in the area.

The “terva”, translating to the 13th day after death in Hindu culture, was attended by members of the Humane Society International team and 50 to 100 locals who prayed for the departed animals and their souls. And after the ritual, they distributed food to street dogs in Kathmandu. 

Animals at work

Animals are even lending a helping hand in the rescue mission. The Department of International Development from the United Kingdom was one of the first to respond with a team of 60 search and rescue responders and medical experts on April 26. This consisted of seven UK International Search and Rescue crews, including four search and rescue dogs. Read all about their heroic efforts here.

(Image: Salon, The Guardian, ABC)

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