Japan has globally raised the bar on expectations for animal rescue. After the cataclysmic earthquake and the Tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011, the promptness of their animal rescue efforts was already impressive. With massive volunteer organizations at the ready and meticulous planning from the Japanese government they were prepared even in the worst of times to provide effective results.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The nuclear power plant in the Fukushima region started emitting radiation levels that exceeded the 1986 disaster in Chernobyl. Japan, with sound reasoning, decided it was in the best interest of the people to request animal rescue volunteers to momentarily postpone their efforts while a sound plan was created to enable workers to safely continue on with their efforts. Without haste and with the backing of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), they organized the first ever Radiation Evacuation Conference on May 2-3, 2011. This international effort was constructed to come up with a safe effective strategy, not only for Fukushima, but also for any future animal extractions involving radiation leaks around the world.
During the planning stages Japan agreed with animal rescue organizers that setting up food stations 20km outside Fukushima’s “hot zone” was a prudent act. The logic was animals would seek out sustenance where rescue workers would be able to retrieve those drawn to the food stores and get them the appropriate veterinary attention. While those efforts were going on, Japan’s environmental division, United States Agricultural and Army Veterinary divisions, toxicology experts from around the world, and IFAW started formulating an approach.
Careful to listen to constructive input from the global community coupled with their fastidious disaster planning, Japan’s Ministry of Environment felt confident that their plan was actionable. At the conclusion of the summit, a ten-page comprehensive report was produced and Japan wasted no time springing into action. Once again, animal rescue attempts within the quarantined 20km zone were underway.
It was the consensus of the summit committee that so long as safety protocols were precisely followed and rescue workers were well trained and equipped there would be minimal risk to detrimental exposure. Japan was careful to prepare rescuers as to what health conditions they were likely to find in surviving animals. Ensuring the effective care and successful removal of animals within radiation filled areas. Veterinary services were setup at frequent intervals to quickly assist recovered companion, farm, and wildlife animals, while ongoing efforts continue to reunite families with their pets.
Japan has faced their many challenges with amazing focus and determination. Leaving the global community hard-pressed to tolerate such ineffective non-action as was witnessed in Hurricane Katrina. Japan has lit the pathway for effective corrective action regardless the crisis and stands as a testament to the rest of the world that animals matter.
Here is an English translation of the ten-page proposal for those who are interested. Review Japan’s initiative.