'Noah's Ark' navy to assist in evacuation of pets and owners from Kaikoura
A modern day Noah’s Ark is set to retrieve pets by boat in what could be New Zealand’s largest marine evacuation of animals.
The HMNZS Canterbury, along with other available ships, will transport domestic animals and their owners from earthquake-stricken Kaikoura to Christchurch.
The animal rescue will be overseen by a team from Wellington SPCA who arrived in Blenheim on Tuesday night.
Wellington SPCA technical rescue co-ordinator Gina Kemp was one of two workers who flew to Kaikoura to report back to the team on what was needed on the ground.
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“It’s important the animals are evacuated alongside people,” she said.
“If left in the homes people would just go back into quake-affected areas.
“It’s awesome that [HMNZS] Canterbury is going to allow pets.”
Companion animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits and birds would be the focus of the rescue efforts.
Sixty foldable metal crates, as well as several hundred cardboard transporters, were donated for the operation.
Veterinarian Alanna Francois joined Kemp and said she would perform first aid on the animals before taking them to a clinic if needed.
“The local vet is probably feeling the pressure a bit so we’re going to offer what we can,” she said.
Animals would be microchipped to prevent being misplaced, Kemp said.
Wellington SPCA chief inspector Ritchie Dawson said naval ships from Australia, Canada and Singapore had been enlisted to assist with the evacuation.
“Any large disaster warrants all efforts,” he said.
“This is unique as Kaikoura is so coastal but now landlocked.”
The remaining five team members were inspecting animal welfare in Ward as they awaited transport to Kaikoura.
Finding water supplies for livestock seemed to be the major issue there, Dawson said.
The team hoped to depart for the coast by helicopter on Thursday.
They would also deliver supplies to those who wished to stay in Kaikoura with their pets.
Alpine Motel in Blenheim housed the team free-of-charge as they planned the logistics of their operation.
Wellington SPCA chief executive Steve Glassey said the scope of the operation was unheralded.
“This is probably the largest marine evacuation, or Noah’s Ark evacuation, so far in New Zealand history,” he said.
“It’s certainly unique and it’s great that Defence are really stepping up to help.”
New Zealand had one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world and animal safety needed to be considered alongside human safety, Glassey said.
“Unless pets are integrated we have evacuation failure, they are a really important coping mechanism,” he said.
“It’s important we do not create a second trauma by separating people from the pets they see as family.
“We know from international experience in disasters that 40 to 60 per cent of people won’t evacuate if they can’t take their pets.”
People on the ground would be encouraged not to feed the animals before they boarded the ships to prevent sickness, Glassey said.
– The Marlborough Express