Fukushima Japan Animal Rescue Crisis: Experts to Meet in Tokyo May 2-3

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Animal rescue and radiation experts from the US and Japan  will meet in Tokyo on May 2-3 to discuss matters related to the animals stranded in the restricted area surrounding the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Conference attendees will meet on Monday and Tuesday of next week at the International House in Tokyo to discuss how best to help and deal with the animals left behind, including wildlife, and whether to continue to rescue pets and remove them from the contaminated evacuation zone.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) , with the cooperation of the Japanese Ministry of the environment, has organized the  gathering to discuss the current crisis and develop steps to provide aid to animals inside the evacuation zone. Participants include  representatives from the Japanese Ministry of Environment, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): APHIS Animal Care and Wildlife Services, United States Army Veterinary Corps, veterinary and toxicology experts, academicians, and IFAW.

In advance of the meeting, an immediate animal relief plan was recommended to Japanese authorities which includes setting up feeding stations in the 20-30km zones, providing decontamination training to veterinary teams, positioning transport equipment in strategic staging areas and readying animal shelters for a possible influx of evacuated animals.

The matter of whether animals, both domestic and wild, carry radioactive particles and could carry contamination with them as they travel or are removed from the zone will be considered at the meeting, along with how to deal with contaminated animals. We regret to say that, among other options, conferees will entertain the possibility of destroying contaminated animals for the twofold reasons of containing radioactive contamination and providing relief from suffering.

Participants will work from the premise that there is limited information or experience with decontamination and treatment of animals affected by radiation, nor any standards established for determining when an animal has been exposed to an unsafe level of radiation. Despite opportunities for study after previous incidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, reportedly little is known about the survivability of wildlife and pets or the viability of farm animals exposed to radiation.

Dick Green, emergency relief manager for disasters at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) notes the following in his blog entry of March 29:

“There is no established protocol for decontamination and/or treatment of animals affected by radiation, nor are there any standards established for determining when an animal has been exposed to an unsafe level of radiation. In essence, little is known about the survivability of wildlife and pets—or the viability of feed animals—exposed to radiation,”

“Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good options available. A large-scale round-up and evacuation of potentially contaminated animals is not practical and long-term feeding operations in an unsafe area is probably not feasible. We do not want contaminated animals leaving the zone and entering safe areas—so the situation is grave,” Green continues. “As much as we hate to resort to depopulation—if the radiation levels remain high and death is imminent— it may be the most humane option.”

The goal of the IFAW-led summit is to develop response procedures and protocols to monitor, evacuate, and treat animals contaminated by radiation. The subject matter experts will cover issues such as radiation exposure, animal physiology, animal behavior, animal rescue and evacuation techniques, animal decontamination, animal sheltering and husbandry, wildlife habitat and rehabilitation, and human responder safety.

This conference comes at a time when domestic animals in the now-forbidden zone are cut off from people, hungry, and in many cases resorting to desperate behavior in response to their suddenly altered circumstances.

The Japanese government ordered residents within a 20 kilometer radius of the earthquake and tsunami damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to leave their homes when the plant began leaking radiation. Most fled without their pets, thinking they could return in a day or two. That was not allowed, but over the following weeks residents and several animal rescue groups returned to save pets which had been left behind, with many cats and dogs being taken to safe shelters or foster homes, and some reunited with their families. Hundreds of pets still remain in the evacuation zone since  the government enacted an order on April 22 further restricting access to the area, and effectively keeping rescuers out.

As the conference attendees meet next week, cats and dogs who formerly knew the companionship and loving care of families fend for themselves while possibly affected by nuclear radiation. The situation is not pretty and rescuers hope that it will be possible to save more of the abandoned animals of Fukushima before it is too late.

0 thoughts on “Fukushima Japan Animal Rescue Crisis: Experts to Meet in Tokyo May 2-3”

  1. Glad it’s happening but it’s still just talking. They need to act quickly. Or perhaps they are hoping time will take care of the problem for them. Grr!

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