Flood rescues in Australia, Sri Lanka, Africa driven by La Niña

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:
Climate change has more than doubled the
risk of flooding since 1950, two new studies
agreed in the February 16, 2011 edition of
Nature.
“For years scientists have said that
global warming would likely cause extremes in
temperatures and rainfall. But this is the first
time researchers have been able to point to a
demonstrable cause-and-effect,” assessed
Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press writer
Seth Borenstein.


The Nature edition was assembled as a La
Niña weathern pattern produced rains inundating
much of Queensland and Victoria state in
Australia, and parts of Sri Lanka, Brazil,
Pakistan, the Philippines, and African nations
including South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe,
Botswana, and Namibia.
More than 70 communities in Queensland
and more than 50 in Victoria suffered damage. At
least 37 Australians were killed by the flooding,
along with 6,100 sheep.
A Royal SPCA temporary shelter set up at
the Central Queensland University evacuation
center accommodated the pets of displaced
persons, while RSPCA field personnel did boat
rescues of pets who were stranded in homes–but
the RSPCA shelter in Fairfield, the main shelter
serving the Brisbane area, was itself obliged to
evacuate more than 500 animals just ahead of the
fast-rising water.
“Whilst all the animals were safely
evacuated and homed in temporary foster care,
the Fairfield shelter is inoperable, closed to
the public, and will remain that way for some
time,” said RSPCA Queensland chief executive
Mark Townend on January 14, 2011. Despite
heavy damage, the shelter reopened temporarily
for a February 19 adoption event.
Brown snakes usually eat frogs, if
possible, and frogs sometimes eat snakes, too,
but computer technician Armin Gerlach
photographed a green tree frog riding a brown
snake through the floodwaters near Brisbane.
“In some degree we are lucky in
Queensland that much of the flooding occurred in
agricultural areas, where there is not a lot of
wildlife,” wrote Wildlife Protection
Associ-ation of Australia president Pat O’Brien.
“The kangaroos are fairly okay,” O’Brien
said, “because in most cases in rural areas the
water came up relatively slowly and they could
get away. We’ll still lose a lot of kangaroos.
We’ll lose lots of the smaller macropods,
especially the wallabies. Bandi-coots, native
rats and mice, invertebrates etc, will all be
heavily impacted, but the reptiles and spiders
seem to be able to get up on fenceposts and
trees. There are lots of dead snakes on the
roads. I heard a report from Lowood that some
people in a boat were going around shooting
snakes in the trees.
“One huge impact,” O’Brien predicted,
recalling coral damage after flooding in 1991,
“will be on the Great Barrier Reef, when the
silt, containing mud, cow manure and farm
chemicals, pours out of the rivers and onto the
coral.”
A longterm threat to both wildlife and
humans, the International Society for Infectious
Diseases warned, will be from mosquito-borne
viruses, as mosquitoes find plentiful breeding
habitat among the puddles left by receding
floodwater. Outbreaks of the Ross River and
Barmah Forest viruses in the afflicted areas had
already nearly tripled in a year’s time before
the 2010-2011 flooding started.
More than a million people were displaced
by Sri Lankan flooding, reported Tsunami
Animal-People Alliance founder Robert Blumberg,
whose team mobilized a reprise of the relief work
they did after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in
December 2004. Since mid-2005 TAPA has focused
on providing high-volume dog and cat
sterilization service in the communities hit by
the tsunami.
During the January 2011 flooding, TAPA
initially did disaster relief assessment with
representatives of Humane Society International
and the World Society for the Protection of
Animals. “The TAPA team, with support from the
Odel Foundation, HSI and WSPA, then started
treating any animal needing assistance,
including dogs, cats and farm animals,”
Blumberg said. “The DogStar Foundation provided
much needed medicines.”
Partnering with the German charity
Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund, TAPA after February 8
focused on the Batticola area where, Blumberg
reported, “There are a high number of sick or
dying farm animals due to the flood. These rural
communities do not receive veterinary services,”
Blumberg said, “and the people just refused to
let the TAPA team leave–they worked 10-hour days
with no breaks! Dogs and cats were treated as
needed in these communities,” Blumberg noted,
“but we focused on injury and illness, with
spay-neuter left for another visit.”
Approximately 6,000 people have been
displaced and at least 70 were killed due to the
flooding in South Africa. Disaster areas were
declared in eight of nine provinces.
The National Council of SPCA fielded
water rescue teams in Gauteng, North West, the
Orange Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, said
spokesperson Christine Kuch.
“There have been concerted efforts to
reach animals stranded on islands, at first by
boat and then by air,” Kuch said. “In some
instances the animals were safe from drowning but
had no food source.”
On January 26, Kuch wrote, the flooding
receded and all returned to normal.

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