Aiding the Wild Fire's Other Victims

Posted by Pia
The rescued baby parrots

The rescued baby parrots

Smoke Plume

Smoke Plume

I recently received this email from Brenda Varvarigos, Executive Director of Valley Wildlife Care that I wanted to share with you:

As La Canada fills with the flames and smoke generated by the ongoing California wildfires, a mother wild parrot nervously throws her just hatched babies from the nest box high in a palm tree down to the ground where humans and fire fighters are fleeing. Since the mom cannot pick up her babies, she assumed throwing them to the ground would be her babies only chance of survival. And who said animals can't think?

There were five total. Two died on impact, leaving three to come to us at Valley Wildlife Care and receive a second chance at life. The newborn baby yellow chevroned parakeets are doing well and aside from some bruising, thriving. Thank you to everyone who is helping to support us during these times.

Fire, maternal instinct and human compassion…Forces of nature

It has been an emotional week for those of us living in the Los Angeles area. I awake to the larger than life image of the devastation occurring only miles up the road.

But fortunately the magnitude of this tragedy is then punctuated by the wonders represented in a story like the one above. Whenever a natural disaster is reported on the news, I am always struck by how absent, or secondary, are reports about the impact on all species other than humans -- 99.999 % of life on this planet. When forest fires result in a report that 'no lives were lost,' I suddenly feel alone in my awareness that this is entirely untrue. Full habitats are destroyed, and the lives of wild animals, farm animals and companion ones are almost invariably swept up in the thousands by the tragedy.

But then I am reminded, like I was by Brenda's email above, that there are amazing people out there braving the elements to get members of other species the help they all rightly deserve. They are as concerned about the frightened turtle ambling along the road as they are about the stranded family dog that has been loved for years. This past week animal loving heroes were working overtime, alongside our brave firefighters, to do a job that requires the manpower of a full army. Volunteers, not required to do so by any laws or mandates, jumped in to do their part for our fellow creatures, who may have had no chance of survival without these compassionate comrades.

While… A basset hound rescue was rapidly calling on volunteers in preparation to evacuate.

A farm animal sanctuary was relocating chickens, cows, emus and pigs alike.

Already overcrowded animal shelters were providing housing for lost and abandoned family pets by the hundreds.

At the same time...

A wild mother parrot was making an undoubtedly difficult choice to push her young from the nest so they might survive. And in a gesture of solidarity, a friendly human hand swept in to rush them to safety, providing the life saving link in a chain whose last link was the mother's fateful nudge.

The acts of those above represent one of the best attributes of humankind -- the ability to be humane -- a choice any and all of us can make at will. What a gift! I have spoken a great deal about the life saving power inherent in the choice to adopt. And now I am speaking of that same concept more broadly: the power to make a difference. While these particular fires may be physically limited to the hills of Southern California, their impact is far-reaching. Though specific animals are impacted more directly in L.A., their kin are in need everywhere. All wildlife and every animal waiting in overcrowded shelters are victims of this fire.  Have a look at this video:  Ode to Station Fire

My experience during the hurricane Katrina animal rescue effort showed me how animal advocacy groups work together across state lines to assist in such endeavors. They constantly move resources around to provide for the influx of animal victims statewide. So whether you reside in California or in Maine, fostering or adopting at your local shelter frees an additional space in the overall system, enabling rescuers to take in another refugee. And sponsoring the rehabilitation of an injured bird frees that group up to assist with or take in another -- either locally or from a sister group in need. The animal shelters can only take in those for which they have the space and resources. They rely on our kindness to be able to give the gift of life to yet another animal in need. We are all links in the chain.

In Kinship,

Dr. Pia Salk

Comments (8)

  • Dear Dr. Pia,

    No you are not alone in your thinking about what happens to the wildlife when fires, floods, hurricanes and tornado's pass or rip through our lives throughout the years.
    I have been watching the fires closely we had 11 here in CA and 17 were in Canada recently. The devastation to all not only humans and animals but to the trees and rivers etc can be devastating- our air everything is effected. Watching the news and seeing horses to rabbits, dogs to lizards scrambling to make it to safety or to live is so gripping to me. I have often wondered where do they go, where do they run to? Thinking also of those that live underground they can't go further inside the ground as smoke will suffocate them there too. Little animals can't run as fast or move as far as the bigger ones so what chances do they have to survive a fire, flood or being wind swept away?

    I can't get it out of my mind the expressions on animals faces when they realize they are alone and left behind by their families or their families can't return to get them out of harm's way. Remember Katrina and how dogs and cats, fish, birds were left behind chained to railings, locked inside homes and even left in cages instead of being let loose to have a chance to get to a safe place, higher ground whatever. I would be one of those people who wouldn't leave my animals. I guess if we didn't make a go for it, a run for it I would most likely die myself trying to get them out too. I pushed for the bill(with thousands of others) to allow people in disasters to be able to get their domestic companions out with them when they are being rescued.

    It is awful when folks are told they can't go to their homes to get their companions and they all die in the fires, floods etc. I know human safety is supposed to come first but it is a horrible thing to watch and live with after it is all over.

    I knew a lady in Santa Barbara who lost 9 horses, 3 dogs and 4 cats in a fire nine years ago. She had gone to the airport to pick her husband up and when they returned to her home the police had blocked off their area and all her animals and home was destoryed.There was about seven hours before the fires reached her home but she still wasn't allowed in to get her animals. She never has recovered from it all, took her until this year to get another horse and still no dogs and cats. She blamed her husband and the marriage ended sadly. Tragic things come from these diasters and sometimes we do hear the good stories of birds, dogs, horses being rescued by mind folks in dire circumstances.

    God bless the folks who open their homes and their hearts to animals in need for foster care and to adopt without caring people our beloved animals don't have much of a chance with natural disasters..

    What really gets at you is that many of these fires are caused by arson, that is the saddest and most painful thing to know these fires are often caused on purpose and yet so many suffer. We lost two firefighters last week, both were married, one had two children the other was expecting his first child in three weeks. Loss of human life and animals is hard to bare and being a CA native I have seen many a fire, earthquake or flood take away animal and human life.
    Do you remember the Lake Tahoe fire a year or so ago when a bear was caught in the fire and the pads of his feet were burnt off? Firefighters stopped and saved the bear, gave him water and took him to a shelter, the town dubbed the bear "Baby" and everyone helped in the progress to get"Baby" well enough. I hope the same happens for these baby birds and for as many animals who have fallen victim to these fires here.

    A firefighter friend of mine Cheri"Rockdog 12" in Ohio just saved two kittens that someone threw in a ditch and she has them at her home helping them survive their ordeal. She tried to save five puppies a few weeks ago that the police found in a paper bag on the side of the road, eyes still shut ,they had been there days no food and water all died but one pup. People are animals worse enemies and their best friends isn't that ironic!

    Dr. Pia you really got me going with your blog today didn't you!

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us here at TDW.

    Pam from California & Mrs. Bosley Chow Chow

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    Thank you Dr. Pia Salk for your comments and update on what is happening around us. Too often people are to concerned about just themselves and forget about the countless lives, of animals, lost in these fires. Mama says that people have “I trouble;” me, myself and I. We have had some bear sightings in some neighborhoods near here this year. People want something done about it for their safety. Just what do people expect when they cut the forest down and build houses and shopping centers? I thought that people were suppose to be smart, but it seems that a mother parrot is really smarter.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • Dr. Salk
    Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Living on the East Coast and hearing about the almost constant wildfires in the West has always made me wonder what the toll was on wildlife. I agree that it is shocking that our news sources never seem to mention this. I am going to suggest to NPR that they do a story on this to raise awareness. Thank you.

  • Hi Dr. Pia,

    You blog entry touches on an important issue: In a disaster, who's more important, animal or human?

    As animals, we are instinctively aware of the connection to our environment and the delicate balance that humans call Ecology.

    I am hopeful that - with help from people like you - all humans will come to understand how crucial it is to their own survival to include the plant and animal kingdom in their endeavors to create a safer, healthier planet.

    How many disasters will it take before humans begin to salivate at just the sound of a bell? Hmmm.

    Keep up the good fight Dr. Pia!

    Though there be so much loss for humans, plants and animals, if we can learn from the loss it will serve those victims have not died in vain. Nature makes no mistakes but is reacting to the imbalances in the environment. All of us must heed nature's warnings. We all depend equally on human nature to come when called. And Nature is calling! We can't give up on the humans! :)

  • I can barely contain the pain in my heart reading this...I for one turn off the TV knowing what is happening, thinking about those poor animals struggling to run from the fire...I can only imagine.
    Because of my sensitive nature in this field of animal suffering I have been called an ostrich(bury my head in the sand) not at all, I only know how to deal with this by not watching, but being aware and through my art turning the revenue into donating for the tragic things that happen from day to day, be it man or animal.
    I think a great deal had to do with the war I experienced, seeing dead animals as a child has traumatized me.
    I could paint everyday and give away my art to auctions or events, because this is how I can deal with it...and of course I pray a great deal about the tragedies and all the sufferings...animals and children are the innocent bystanders and that's who I'm for...I am so grateful that there are people out there that are willing to go and help all these animlas...God Bless them!

  • Hi Dr. Pia, Thank you for sharing this blog. I wish more people would read it and hopefully realize how important it is to do something to help all of the animals that are obviously involved in ANY type of fire. My heart goes out to ALL of them. I have always felt the same way you do when it is reported that 'no lives were lost' and that they never mention any animals. We know darn good and well that animals WERE involved and they need as much help as the people do. Thank you so much for the wonderful job that you do. Sincerely, Jan (Dudley Do Right's Mom)

  • I just wanted to let people know that Margo's Bark Rootbeer is so delicous and all the profit goest to animal rescues.I think Martha should have them on the show and they could make the family recepit rootbeer on the air.The show can be about Rootbeer's history of how it came to be an old fashioned favorite. I just wanted to make that suggestion for a segment and give Margo's Bark Rootbeer the exsposure and recognition it deserves.Please have viewers ask for it at Whole Foods. They carry it in some store locations.You will find it has no artifical sweetners just real cane sugar.It is a wonderful product and they are wonderful parents and humanitarians to encourge there son to creat this endeavor.

  • I ONLY think about the animals. And this fire makes me sadder every day when I think about the incredible loss of wildlife and all the injured and displaced ones. If there is a God, it must be crying. I know I am.

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