Helping animals recover after Chile’s forest fires
By Kitty Block
In Chile, forest fires recently left entire families without homes. More than 6,000 people have been displaced.
In February, a group of first responders discovered a family sleeping in a tent with the last of their belongings and their two dogs. One of their dogs was curled up in a tight ball, sleeping. At first glance, the dog did not seem to be in bad shape, but the veterinarians knew that burns can be difficult to see in furry creatures. With his guardians’ permission, Rocky was taken to the nearest city for treatment.
The veterinary team discovered burns all over Rocky’s little body. They hurried to treat him, covering his body with topical products and bandages for healing. They also provided the pup with necessary pain management to make his life more comfortable during the initial phases of treatment.
And Rocky perked right up. Everyone who has met Rocky has fallen in love with him. He is sweet, loving and incredibly resilient. Even covered with bandages from head to toe, and having suffered enormous amounts of pain, Rocky met Marcela, program coordinator for Humane Society International in Chile, at the clinic where our team is helping, with a wagging tail.
Countless animal lives have been affected by the wildfires, and many have not been as lucky as Rocky. There are many stories of courage where people risked their lives to save their animals. The human-animal bond is so strong in these communities that some people would not evacuate because they didn’t have transport to bring their chickens, dogs and cats with them. Official reports put the farm animal death toll at more than 24,000 animals, affecting the economic prospects for so many of these rural families.
Veterinary students and professors from the University of Concepcion returned early from their break to tend to the dozens of injured horses and wildlife people were bringing in from the fires. Daniela Sanchez, a veterinarian and HSI’s country director in Chile, sprang into action and purchased veterinary supplies such as oxygen concentrators, critical to the survival of endangered wildlife such as the pudu—a South American native species and the world’s smallest deer—, along with highly nutritious feed and medication to care for animal burn victims.
As our team arrived at the university hospital to deliver the aid, it became apparent that everyone had been working long hours to save the animals in their care. After offloading the vehicle of all the feed and supplies destined to help hundreds of animals in their healing process, our team drove to wildlife rehabilitation centers to drop off specialized equipment.
Amid the death and destruction are moments of hope. A mother pudu and her baby were rescued by a local family and brought into a rehabilitation center with severe burns, but with the help of the staff and the specialized supplies, they are now recovering nicely.
One of the victims who arrived at the veterinary hospital was a horse named Spirit. He was driven in from an hour away along with another beloved horse who tragically was too burned to be saved. Large parts of Spirit’s body had to be covered in bandages that needed to be changed every two hours. He was connected to an IV and standing in the corner of the stall when Marcela from our team approached him gently with a handful of highly nutritious alfalfa. Spirit happily started munching on the food.
The scale of the wildfire destruction is hard to fathom. To date, the fire has affected over 433,439 hectares of forest and land (more than one million acres). Our team in Chile is honored to be able to help deliver lifesaving care to all the animals who were being taken in by different entities, including the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service, the National Veterinary Board, the Agriculture and Livestock Service, the University of Concepción, the military forces and many veterinary private clinics that had mobilized veterinarians to areas most in need.
When disaster strikes, we assist however we can. Our rescue team is made up of team members from the U.S. and around the world who are ready to deploy to help animals in the wake of disasters, from the aftermath of tornados in Kentucky to that of the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye. In Chile, our team will continue to deliver aid and veterinary supplies to areas most in need to help animals recover and soothe their pain.
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Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.
Gracias a dios existe gente que todavía pone su corazón su vida y su tiempo en salvar y curar a estos animalitos y a los que vivan desgracias así
Das sind so schreckliche Bilder von den armen verletzten Tieren … es bricht mir mein ♥️… ich wünsche mir, dass viele tierliebe Menschen helfen können … 🐾🥰danke für ihren großartigen Einsatz …💕 Karin erker
My God! Those poor animals. Thank you for your kindness.