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Helping Pacific protect animals, livelihoods in disasters

4 September 2013

Helping Pacific nations protect animals and livelihoods during disasters

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is working with veterinarians and Government leaders from across the Pacific this week to highlight the importance of planning for animals during disasters. Improving animal welfare by increasing the number of qualified vets and the standard of veterinary care in the region is also high on the agenda for WSPA’s CEO Mike Baker who is attending the Commonwealth Veterinarian Association’s (CVA) conference in Nandi, Fiji.

The CVA event follows a week of WSPA-led disaster preparation training in Suva for 21 officials from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Western Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. Attendees learnt how to implement the globally recognized Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS) which includes instruction on simple early warning systems and well-coordinated evacuation of animals.

Every year large numbers of animals suffer and die as a result of natural disasters across the Pacific. With experts predicting more frequent severe weather events as the world’s climate changes [Climate Change Impacts in the Asia/Pacific Region, ILFAD and The Global Mechanism.], injury and loss of livestock will have a progressive impact on Pacific nations, with a majority of people relying on their animals for livelihoods and sustenance.

Helping animals during adversities ensures communities are better able to recover in the aftermath of cyclones, tsunamis and flooding common across the region. Last week’s LEGS session builds on similar training during 2012 bringing the total number of regionally accredited officials to 49.

WSPA’s Disaster Management Operations Director for Asia Pacific, Dr Ian Dacre said: “Our toughest challenges – food security and safety, disease, economic development and climate change – can only be tackled when the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental part of the solution.

“Our work to help animals starts with people. In this case we are working with local communities in island nations so they can better prepare and protect their animals from more frequent severe weather events. We are empowering people to take action and safeguard their animals – by helping animals we are also helping people too.”

In recent years WSPA has sent teams to Fiji to help animals and communities following Cyclone Tomas in 2010 and severe flooding in 2012. A team also responded to the Solomon Islands earthquake and tsunami in February this year.

WSPA is also supporting the CVA as it tackles challenges to improving animal welfare in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) including increasing the limited number of animal health services and considering the case for a veterinary school in Fiji.

Chair of the CVA Organising Committee Dr Robin Yarrow said: “Animals are a vitally important part of Pacific island life and also contribute significantly to food security and the regional economy. Increasing demand for livestock products is providing both opportunities and dilemmas; the welfare of companion animals, marine and wildlife is also important, yet we have a very limited number of veterinary professionals to care for our many diverse animals.

He added: “We need to ensure better animal protection and education because it makes sense for the animals and for the people who depend on them. We need people to understand the benefit of good animal welfare not only for their animals but for themselves as well.”

The WSPA has also recently signed an MOU with the CVA. The two organisations are dedicated to working together to improve animal welfare across the Pacific region.


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