Flood, fires, deadly hailstorm hit animal refuges around the Pacific rim

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2003:

Three weeks of fires threatening shelters, sanctuaries, and
sensitive wildlife habitat around the Pacific Rim were followed on
the night of November 2 by flash flooding that all but obliterated
Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.
“Bukit Lawang is the site of the original Sumatran orangutan
rehabilitation centre, established in the early 1970s by PanEco
Foundation president Regina Frey and her colleague Monica Borner,”
the Sumatran Orangutan Society e-mailed to International Primate
Protection League founder Shirley McGreal. “The village had
developed into a thriving resort.” “The Bohorok river
began to rise slowly,” SOS described, based on survivor accounts,
but “around 10.00 p.m. came a deluge bearing hundreds of fallen
trees. The town was located directly in the path of the surge as it
hit a bend and thrust over the Bohorok banks at full force.
Together, the water and timber pummeled the village for about three
Wrote Suzanne Plunkett of Associated Press, “The death toll
hit 112 on November 6 as authorities promised to punish illegal
loggers held responsible for the disaster. At least 135 other people
are reported missing and feared dead.”

Among the dead were five ecotourists: two from Germany, two
from Austria, one from Singapore.
Two orangutans were found dead, but five orangutans kept in
cages by the Pongo Resort survived the flood and were released the
next day to seek food. Wild orangutans nearby apparently scrambled
to high ground before the logs hit.
“Government officials admit that illegal felling in Gunnar
Leuser Park may have blocked a waterway high in the mountains,
causing the huge flash flood when the logs collapsed,” Associated
Press reported.

California fires

Southern California on the night of November 2 slept
uneasily, with firefighters’ hoses still cooling the embers of
wind-driven blazes that killed at least 20 people and countless
animals between the Mexican border and the Simi Valley, north of Los
Angeles. The fires, the largest of which werecalled the Cedar Fire
and the Old Fire, seared an area larger than Rhode Island.
Among the first human victims whose name was released was
equestrian instructor Nancy Morphew, 51, of Valley Center.
Surviving similar fires in 1991 and 1996, “The Morphews
hadn’t wasted time,” reported Los Angeles Times staff writers Mike
Anton and Anna Gorman. “After Nancy Morphew woke to smoke just
before 2 a.m. on October 26 and saw the glowing sky, Steve Morphew,
53, her husband of 31 years, said he headed to the hoses out back,
she to get the horse trailer out front. The couple had 10 Arabians
on their 11-acre property. She was moving a horse trailer into
position when,” possibly blinded by smoke, “she accidentally drove
her truck into a ravine. As she tried to climb out, the fire
overtook her, Steve Morphew said.
“Their daughter Micaela, 24, walked a pregnant horse of
theirs four miles to safety,” Anton and Gorman continued. Micaela
Morphew “said her mother’s last words to her concerned that horse:
She threw Micaela a halter and told her to get the horse out.”
The other nine horses saved themselves.
Morphew was among 13 people killed by the 272,00-acre Cedar Fire.
“Southern California was already besieged by flames when the
San Diego County Sheriff’s helicopter went to search for a lost
hunter who allegedly lit a beacon fire,” wrote Associated Press
reporter Justin Pritchard of the start of the blaze. Pilot Dave
Weldon found and retrieved the hunter, and at about 5:45 p.m.
radioed for a water drop to extinguish the fire, which still was
within an area measuring about 50 yards square. Another helicopter
flew within five miles with a 120-gallon water bucket before being
recalled because of a safety rule forbidding firefighting flights
within half an hour of sunset.
At about the same time Morphew awakened to the approaching
Cedar Fire, San Bernardino county sheriff’s deputies woke Wildhaven
Ranch wildlife rehabilitation center cofounders Diane Drogotto
Williams and Roger Williams, warning them about the oncoming Old
Their evacuation, with two bears, two raccoons, a coyote,
and 15 raptors, took seven hours. The large mammals were taken to
the Windhaven Kennel in Hesperia. The raptors went to the Coachella
Valley Wild Bird Center. Soon afterward the fire razed the Williams’
home and most of the other buildings on the 35-acre Wildhaven site,
a former amusement park near Lake Arrowhead that opened in 1955 as
Santa’s Village. Later called Fantasy Forest, it closed in 1998.
The Wildhaven web site expressed hope of reopening, using
the remaining buildings, and of rebuilding.
Fire threatened the California Wolf Center in Julian from
October 25 until October 28, founder Patrick Valentino e-mailed.
Site manager James McCoy and retired firefighter Bill Hurd led a
seven-member volunteer team in a successful defense of all the major
structures and all the wolves, but a food storage shed was lost,
among about $37,000 worth of total damage.
Four wolves were killed when the California Wolf Center was
partially overrun by a brushfire in June 2002, an experience that
probably contributed to saving more than 30 wolves from a much larger
2003 conflagration.
“Kermit, a red-shouldered macaw, and Tango, an arctic fox,
were among the Simi Valley fire casualities,” wrote Ventura County
Star reporter Staci Haight. Both apparently died from stress and
heat exhaustion after exotic animal training and management students
temporarily evacuated about a third of the 150 animals from America’s
Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College. The students were given only 20
minutes to grab animals and go, and had just six vans to take them
in. America’s Teaching Zoo escaped, however, with only light
damage from smoke and falling ashes.
The San Bernardino County shelter in Devore received “62
dogs, 47 cats, 8 horses, a cow, a goat, and some pigs and birds
due to the fire,” wrote Bonnie Stewart of the Riverside
Press-Enterprise. “Flames reached the shelter’s fence line, but
firefighters fought them with a backfire.”
The San Bernardino city shelter took in more than 300
animals, Stewart continued.
SPCA/Los Angeles animal rescue team captain David Havard told
Danica Kirka of Associated Press that he had handled 250 horses, a
donkey, a pig, and 50 to 100 dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks in
just three days.
Arriving to help were disaster relief teams coordinated by
Terri Crisp of Noah’s Wish and Randy Covey and Lisa Swanson of the
Oregon Humane Society. Noah’s Wish looked after more than 500
animals at the Victorville fairground, Crisp faxed to ANIMAL PEOPLE,
while the Oregon Humane Society team recovered 180 animals in five
days of searching the San Bernardino hills.
San Bernardino County supervising animal control officer
Daryl Brawley anticipated that the influx of displaced pets would be
followed by arrivals of injured or disoriented wildlife picked up by
private citizens, and warned that wildlife rescue attempts could be
Several endangered or threatened species may have been
annihilated or left with habitat too badly damaged to sustain them,
including the mountain yellow-legged frog, torrent salamanders, and
at least two kinds of butterfly.
In Philadelphia to speak at the No More Homeless Pets
conference sponsored by the Best Friends Animal Society, Helen V.
Woodward Animal Center executive director Mike Arms took an early
shuttle to the airport on October 26 after learning that one of the
fires was racing toward the Chula Vista shelter complex.
Intending to take the first flight home he could catch, to
personally supervise the anticipated evacuation, Arms was still in
Philadelphia, pacing and relying on cell telephone updates, more
than eight hours later. Thick smoke had forced the cancellation of
all flights to any nearby destination.
Evacuating the dogs, cats, and birds from the Woodward
Center became complicated because the fires menaced so many of the
other shelters that participate in the regional disaster relief plan.
The animals were prepared for moving, Arms said, with nowhere to
go, but luckily the wind shifted and the fire headed away before a
full evacuation had to begin.
The Woodward Center horse stables were emptied earlier. The
horses relocated temporarily to the Del Mar racetrack, Arms told
The largest available horse facility that seemed to be safe,
Del Mar housed more than 1,200 horses from fire zones on the night of
October 27. Another 100 horses were bivouacked at Pierce College in
the San Fernando Valley.
Wild Burro Rescue, 4,800 feet above sea level near Olancha,
California, was well beyond the fire zone, but took a hit from one
of the wind storms that drove the flames.
Recounted Seattle volunteer Cindy Taylor, “The wind picked
up a $15,000 aluminum four-horse trailer, crashing it upside down
into a fence, then tossed it into the corral holding the rescued
male burros. Luckily no burros were injured. The trailer rolled and
landed right side up, on top of huge boulders. This was the only
trailer available to transport burros from Death Valley,” where WBR
has collected burros since 1994 to keep them from being shot by the
Park Service.

Other disasters

Other fires jeopardized the survival of the last 200 wild
horses in western Canada and the last 30 Far East Russian leopards.
Identified by biologist Wayne McCrory as probable descendants
of a 16th century Spanish herd brought north from Mexico, the horses
roam the Chilcottin Valley in the remote Brittany Triangle of British
Columbia. Explorer Simon Fraser noted their presence in 1807.
The British Columbia government for more than 50 years,
beginning in 1924, offered various incentives to entrepreneurs in
hopes of exterminating wild horses, but the Brittany herd fell under
the territorial protection of the Xeni Gwet’in aboriginal nation.
An August 2003 forest fire ignited the Chilco Lake peat bogs.
The smouldering peat fire had by mid-October consumed almost a third
of the horses’ known range.
The fire threatening the leopards razed a protected habitat
near Vladivostok after “people looking for scrap metal emptied
containers filled with napalm and other toxic substances they found
at a disused military base,” World Wildlife Fund official Pavel
Fomenko told Agence France-Presse.
A catastrophe of another kind hit the Currumbin Wildlife
Sanctuary on the Gold Coast of Australia on October 26. “Hailstones
killed more than 100 birds and mammals, including a dozen kangaroos
and wallabies,” the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported. “More than 60
possums, lorikeets, and kookaburras are being treated for
hail-related injuries.”
The hail also “destroyed roofing, broke windows, and damaged cars,”
the Courier-Mail said.

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