Jan Salter, a legend in Himalayan humane work, below offers a second perspective on the Nepal earthquake relief effort; see also “No karmic bridge links the Nepal earthquake to Gadhi Mai” and Animal Nepal’s post-earthquake report.
Many have commented and noticed that I have not been as publicly visible in KAT’s many activities and online over the last year or so. I’d like to reassure those of you who may have been concerned, that I am just as active behind the scenes as always. But due to my medical condition (Parkinson’s) I am now limited, and can longer able to be in the forefront of all of KAT’s activities. Fortunately, I have a wonderful loyal KAT team who are continuing the mission and have even expanded KAT’s essential work with animals within the community.
The disastrous earthquake which hit Nepal on the 25th of April 2015 has entailed an extremely hard time for everyone during these weeks that have followed. Luckily, the KAT Centre only received minor damage which affected water, electricity and communication lines for about a week or so. We were soon able to function as normal.
I am extremely proud of the way every member of the KAT team worked tirelessly, rescuing and treating the many animals that were affected by this tragedy. Many dogs and cats were injured, and others were abandoned when people fled their destroyed or damaged homes.
Help from abroad
Within hours of the news of the first quake, animal disaster relief organizations were on their way to Nepal from all over the globe. The situation with street dogs and abandoned pets in Kathmandu was horrifying, but the circumstance of livestock among the hill village communities was clearly dire.
Very soon, the KAT premises was occupied and buzzing with international animal rescue workers from IFAW (International Fund Animal Welfare) and from HSI (Humane Society International), World Vets, as well as vets from Australia. All KAT office space was crowded with eager animal rescuers from all over the world, heads together, planning and preparing for the work ahead. Every room and space at our centre fast became filled with veterinarian materials and supplies.
Rural & urban teams
When the planning was done, almost as quickly as they had arrived, all the teams quickly departed for their assigned designations and missions. As they drove out of our gates, we feared as to what tragedies they would find. Our KAT vet Dr Pravin joined them and became part of the outreach team. We wondered, what stories would they tell on their return?
In the meantime, the KAT home team was busy dealing with the injured animals in the city. Rescuing and treating animals that were hurt in this devastating earthquake was a case of doing what was possible, as quickly as possible. Injured and terrified creatures were brought to the Centre. Injured street dogs and abandoned and bewildered previously owned dogs (who lack survival instincts and skills) were both prey to territorial street canines. Plus, since most of the restaurants and hotels were closed, street dogs lost an important source of food.
Volunteers were an invaluable help in assisting the KAT team to distribute the food that we cook at the Centre. (This is local fresh food which was mixed together with the dried food donated by generously by individuals and organizations.) This food is taken to different parts of the city and shared out to the hungry street dogs.
We have had considerable success with our campaign to try to connect people with their lost pets using social media such as Facebook. But many people have not yet returned to the city since after-shocks are still rocking the Valley. Local groups that KAT connects with have also been extremely helpful in taking care of dogs within their communities. Again with the help of Facebook, we have managed to adopt many puppies and kittens.
Our Centre right now is overwhelmed with rescued dogs and it has become necessary to stop our ABC sterilization program to deal with these emergency cases. We are in the process of building more kennels to hold the increasing numbers of abandoned or injured creatures taking refuge at KAT.
As each exhausted team came back from the districts of Sindhupalchowk, Dhading, Kavre and beyond, we heard such overwhelming stories that it was difficult not to weep. With the help of the District Livestock Office, (who provided information on which areas were worst affected) the volunteer teams worked nonstop. Sometimes they worked for three days in a row performing endless cycles of surgeries and treating cows, buffalos and goats. Words can try, but fail to describe the devastation and suffering that the earthquake left in its wake. The second earthquake (on May 12th) and the numerous aftershocks created further challenges for the teams.
Oftentimes, they would drive up to a road head only to find that the road to the hinterlands was completely blocked with rubble from landslides. Plus with the earth beneath their feet continuing to shake, the obvious danger of further landslides often impeded their work.
On his return, our KAT Vet Dr Pravin described with a heavy heart, how families and communities, despite all that they themselves were enduring, nevertheless, tried to care and save their suffering animals. The pathetic condition of the large animals (such as cows and buffalos) who received the brunt of falling debris shocked us all. Nepal is a Hindu country where cows are revered as sacred, when these animals are injured they can only be made as comfortable as possible, but cannot be euthanized. These people, many of whom had themselves lost everything, still found it in their hearts to give immense warmth and gratitude to the vets for their efforts to provide help
The coming days will provide additional challenges both for the KAT staff and everyone. During the monsoon we will have to be prepared for the likelihood of further destruction (from landslides) and from the diseases that are prevalent during this rainy season.
This was not an unexpected disaster. People like me, who have lived in Nepal for many years, have been aware that a ‘big one‘ was looming, and the possibility was always at the back of our minds. But none of us could have foreseen the manner and the extent of the devastation.
Sadly it has been the rural hills and rugged peoples who live a bare existence there, that have suffered the most. Many of you who have supported KAT, have also trekked in those distant beautiful hills and valleys and have enjoyed sharing, if only for a short time, the mountain people’s simple and arduous lives. Humans and animals living together, as they have done for generations. We at KAT, whose motto here in Kathmandu is ‘Humane Management for Community Benefit’ grieve for the loss of so many hill communities and for the animals which were their livelihood.
We hope that the abundant big heartedness shown by people from around the world will soon reach and bring them hope from their suffering.
Jan Salter, founder
Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre
GP Box 8975, EPC 4120, Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977 1 4377729