Oct 16, 2012

Making a world of difference

Your support helps us rescue and protect animals living in disaster stricken areas all over the world. Last year we saved an incredible 330,000 animals from harm.  Floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are just some of the life-threatening situations in which the hardworking members of our disaster teams find themselves. Behind the numbers and news headlines are very real people – we thought you would like tomeet them…

Map point – Medellin, Colombia


Dr Diego Alonso Zuluaga Araque
WSPA job: Veterinary emergency response unit leader
Time with WSPA:  Five years
Favourite animal: Horse 
Best WSPA moment: When a landslide struck the La Gabriela neighbourhood in Bello Municipality, Colombia in 2010, 80 people were killed and many more were made homeless. This devastated community’s animals were suffering terribly as well and there was so much sadness and grief. As I treated the affected and homeless animals with love, food and veterinary care and reunited them with their owners my job felt so worthwhile. I know animals can’t talk but I can feel their gratitude when I help them; this helps me sleep quietly at night. 

Map point – Mendoza, Argentina

Dr Jennifer Ibarra
WSPA job: Disaster liaison officer
Time with WSPA: Six years 
Favourite animal: This is difficult – I like them all! 
Best WSPA moment: Last year when the Puyehue Volcano erupted showering the area in ash and affecting 120,000 animals, our rescue mission found animals in one community really close to death. They couldn’t graze though the ash and were badly dehydrated. The conditions were terrible. We couldn’t believe how bad it was; their owners were ill and thirsty too. We brought them water – I will never forget how desperate the animals were and how we were able to help. When the food aid arrived the people were so grateful – they thanked us over and over.  

Map point – New Delhi, India

Mr Hansen Thambi Penn
WSPA job: Disaster project manager
Time with WSPA: 13 months (June 2011)
Favourite animal: Black Labrador
Best WSPA moment: When West Bengal was hit by terrible floods in June 2011 we delivered feed and health care to more than 13,000 cattle, goats and poultry in six of the worst affected villages. We also helped local people prepare to protect their animals from future disasters. Our mission finished in December; as we thanked the district administration officer for supporting our work, he told us he was very grateful for our help in ensuring the effective use of government resources in the disaster response.  His words were inspiring to the whole team and summed up what our work is about.  

Map point – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dr Flora Aymara
WSPA job: Consultant vet and former volunteer 
Time with WSPA: Two years as volunteer
Favourite animal:  Cat 
Best WSPA moment: After the city of Rio Branco was affected by devastating floods, I was sent by WSPA to help the Zoonosis Control Centre which was struggling to cope with 700 homeless animals. They were missing their owners and were very depressed.   I helped vaccinate them and made sure that the pet food given by WSPA was delivered and distributed. During my second day a couple came to try and find their cat… there were just so many, but they found him and their happiness was so exciting! 

Map point – Fiji

Dr Kate Hickey
WSPA job: WSPA Disaster liaison officer
Time with WSPA: Six months
Favourite animal: Horse
Best WSPA moment:  After the severe flooding that affected Fiji, I visited a small family-run farm that had lost one third of their livestock. They only had one surviving calf and it was close to dying. After emergency surgery and antibiotics the calf was able to stand and eat and drink. The family cried and were so grateful. They invited me to stay for a family lunch and it was so special to know that I had touched their lives and saved their only calf.  

Map point – Cebu, Philippines

Dr Daniel C Ventura Jr
WSPA job: Disaster liaison officer 
Time with WSPA: Two years
Favourite animal: Dog 
Best WSPA moment: During disaster responses we have to be sensitive about evacuations – how animals can be managed in and around evacuation centres along with public health, safety and welfare. The best moments are always when I see signs of human-animal bonding – dogs and people sharing space in evacuation centres -   and see owners taking their pets with them during disasters. This shows how they value them more than their material possessions. 

Map point – Bangkok, Thailand

Dr  Nartisorn Pholperm
WSPA job: Disaster operation veterinary officer
Time with WSPA: Four years 
Favourite animal: Any creature with wings
Best WSPA moment: After the massive floods we had worked on in Thailand we went back to Pichit province where several months earlier we distributed 90 tonnes of feed to save cattle from dying. When one of the farmers we helped saw me he ran up, hugged me tightly and said: “Doctor you know, if you hadn’t come the cattle would have died.” This feedback made my job feel so worthwhile.

Map point – Costa Rica

Dr Sergio Vasquez Longoria
WSPA job: Disaster management veterinary officer 
Time with WSPA: Five years
Favourite animal: My cat Pipsqueak 
Best WSPA moment: My best moment, but also a really upsetting one, involved an emergency response in the Turks and Caicos Islands after Hurricane Ike. We found horses in enclosures along the beach suffering with severe colic; in their hunger and distress they had been eating sand.  They were in terrible pain.  We couldn’t save them all, but I managed to save one. I treated him for hours and the next day he was up and around and eating the hay we had brought.