Animal Relief En Route to Myanmar

After weeks of resistance from the military regime which governs Myanmar (a country in southeast Asia formerly known as Burma), animal welfare workers from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) finally have been given permission to enter the country to provide assistance for millions of animals affected by a devastating cyclone that hit the country May 2.

Michelle Cliffe, communications manager for WSPA Canada, reported that an international team of veterinarians and a specialist in disaster recovery planning have assembled in Bangkok. They are expected to head to the hard-hit city of Yangon.

In advance of the team's arrival, WSPA has arranged for the delivery of 31 metric tons (more than 68,000 pounds) of animal feed.

Myanmar map


"We are the only aid organization which has been invited by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the Burmese government, to enter the country and provide aid," Cliffe said. "We'll be working with the FAO to determine where the greatest need is, but we anticipate that our focus will be on working animals and livestock."

There are an estimated 4 million working cattle and buffalo in Myanmar, and an undetermined number of equines, primarily donkeys. According to figures provided by the government to the U.N., there is an estimated loss of 20% of the cattle population, and up to 89% of the nation's poultry.

About 17.5% of the 53 million people in Myanmar depend on livestock for their livelihood.

"We're not sure what the conditions will be until we get there," Cliffe said, "but based on our experience with similar situations, such as Bangladesh (which experienced a cyclone in late 2007), we're expecting that the post-cyclone flooding will have wiped out much of the fodder needed by the livestock, and the remaining feed may be contaminated. Water-borne diseases are also a huge concern for both humans and animals."

Aid workers with the WSPA expect to be in place for a month, providing immediate relief, and working with local and government veterinarians to help put together a long-term recovery plan.

About the Author

Karen Briggs

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She's written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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