Helping animals recover after Chile’s forest fires

By Kitty Block

By on March 27, 2023 with 3 Comments

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.

After a few weeks of healing, Rocky’s facial fur is growing back. Ernesto Rodriguez Sevilla for HSI

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.

A lost and dehydrated kitten was found in the woods and brought to the clinic for medical attention. Claudio Ramirez for HSI

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.

This mother and baby pudu were rescued from wildfires by a local family and brought to a rehabilitation center where they are recovering from their burns together. Claudio Ramirez for HSI

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.

A horse named Spirit is recovering from his burns at the clinic. Claudio Ramirez for HSI

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.

Daniela Sanchez, a veterinarian and HSI’s country director in Chile, helps to bottle-feed one of the puppies who was rescued after his mother died from fire-related injuries. Claudio Ramirez for HSI

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.

To support work like this, you can make a donation.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Animal Rescue and Care, Humane Society International

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    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

  2. Karin Erker says:

    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

  3. Maria says:

    My God! Those poor animals. Thank you for your kindness.

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