Aftermath of Cyclone Phailin: Groups struggle to feed and care for evacuated animals

DSC00030 cows

Many groups have been very hard at work, in the midst of ongoing floods, rescuing, feeding and providing vet care to animals following cyclone Phailin.  Among them is The Maitri Club.

Due to the cyclone and power cuts, Kailash Ch Maharana, Chairman of the Maitri Club, writes that it has been impossible for him, until now, to receive or send emails.

They are located in the District of Ganjam, 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from Gopalpur, where cyclone Phailin stuck the sea coast of Orissa, India.

He writes, “Here the situation is horrible.”

On October 12, just before the storm struck, they safely evacuated all the cattle from 13 villages. The cattle are still feeling unsettled and greatly stressed.

Immediately after the cyclone, they were unable to move for two days due to fallen trees.  After the 14th,  they rounded up ten volunteers and set about helping the animals. Their transportation is by motorbike, and for the rescued cattle, they are distributing food that they had earlier set aside and kept in storage.


One bright spot was that on the evening of October 12, one of the cows they had evacuated, who belonged to a poor farmer, gave birth to a calf.  As they heard the roar of the wind pick up, they had all been afraid that the cow or her calf might not survive, but they’re both doing well, and at the height of the storm, during windspeeds of 260 kilometers an hour (161 miles per hour), she gave birth to her calf.

Kailash Ch Maharana’s own house is right by Baghua River, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneswar. On October 12, the river flooded all around them, and they were stranded for a day and a half. The power is still off, and not expected to be back on for another 20 days.  He writes, “A big banyan tree has fallen on our office.”


From October 14 onwards, as soon as they were able to travel, they repaired 260 damaged structures in 20 villages of the Ganjam District, and set up 170 sheets of polythene as temporary protection for the animals.

The government rescuers have so far been able only to help humans and have not provided any assistance to animals.  There is an urgent need for fodder for the cows and for more polythene sheeting for shelter for the animals.  On October 23 and 24, a low pressure system moved in, bringing heavy downpours of rain, which made their work very difficult and did not help anyone’s spirits.

Kailash tried for seven days to get on the internet to send an email, and at last succeeded at a bank.


In this trying situation, the Maitri Club staff and volunteers continue their courageous work, doing their best to provide feed, shelter, and care for the many displaced animals.

Among many other groups that have been helping animals, in the wake of the cyclone, are Wildlife SOS, Wildlife Trust of India, APOWA, and VSPCA. Hundreds of young and adult Asian openbill storks, blown out of their nests in the storm, are being treated and cared for. Wildlife rehabilitator, Saleem Hameed, (sponsored by People for Animals) has been training some of the rescuers in the proper care and feeding of the wild storks.

To visit the Maitri Club’s website or to donate, click here.


Other organizations may be reached through their websites:


Wildlife SOS


Wildlife Trust of India




Photos: Courtesy of the Maitri Club

Uttarakhund: help still needed for flood-stranded mules, donkeys, and horses

PFA Dehradun flood relief team treating one of the horses.
PFA Dehradun flood relief team treating one of the horses.

On June 16, enormous floods cascaded through Uttarakhand in northern India, sweeping away thousands of people and devastating the beautiful countryside in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Several of India’s most holy temples are found there, including Kedarnath, which was left still standing, but severely impacted with many feet of mud, and many deaths in and around the temple.

Among the casualties in the area are thousands of mules, donkeys, and horses who carried pilgrims up the steep mountains to the sacred sites.  Many animals died in the floods and others, sadly, have died since in the flood’s aftermath, as they sought food and safety higher up on the precarious mountain slopes. However, thousands of mules and other equines remain stranded, in urgent need of help, on the far side of the rivers, including the Alaknanda River.

Horses on the route to Kedarnath carrying pilgrims, before the floods.
Horses on the route to Kedarnath carrying pilgrims, before the floods.

All the bridges on this section of the river were destroyed in the floods.  The animals need to be led to safety across temporary bridges, and there is an immediate need for helicopters to air-drop fodder to them.  Some animal fodder has been provided, but only a fraction of what is needed.

Several animal organizations are helping, including Humane Society International, PFA Uttarakhand, PAL Thane, PFA Dehradun, Animal Ashram, Help Animals India, and others.  The following information is from PFA Dehradun, one of the groups assisted by  Help Animals India.

Recent news

Starting with the most recent news – on July 3, 2013, Manavi Bhatt, of PFA Dehradun, wrote that the government has now begun building a temporary bridge for the evacuation of the animals. Earlier, on June 26, the army had built an iron foot bridge at Lambagarh.  PFA Dehradun had been asking the District Minister of Chamoli to deploy the army to build a bridge across the River Alaknanda near Hemkund Trek, a 15,000 foot high sacred site, with a glacial lake surrounded by seven mountains, where many animals remain stranded.

Two days earlier, on Monday, July 1, Manavi Bhatt wrote “The situation on the Hemkund Trek is getting more and more critical by the day.” 1500 animals are stranded at Hemkund Trek, including 350 that PFA volunteers found stranded in Pulana Village, where “not a single air-drop of animal fodder has been done there as of today.”

Nearby Ghangaria serves as a base camp for travelers going to Hemkund or to the Valley of Flowers.  There are animals stranded there too without food.

Horses in the Kedarnath hills, before the floods.
Horses in the Kedarnath hills, before the floods.

Difficult logistics

Tons of animal fodder are lying at airports, but with bridges and roads washed out, logistics of getting it to the animals are difficult. Helicopters need to be requisitioned.

The area is filled with many rivers of rushing water and very steep terrain.  Most of the stranded pilgrims have been evacuated, though there remain the bodies of the dead to be collected, and there are villages higher up where people are still in need of help. Some of the local guides have stayed behind with their stranded animals.

On June 29, Manavi Bhatt wrote that PFA Dehradun volunteers Pankaj Pokhriyal, Jasbir Singh, and others were reporting from the scene of the disaster that evacuating the animals is essential. There are very large numbers of mules and horses, and the minimal amount of food that is reaching them cannot continue to be supplied. No food has reached the animals stranded higher up on the slopes. She expressed her thanks to Animal Ashram of Lucknow for transporting fodder, at their own expense, all the way from Lucknow (in Uttar Pradesh, just south of Uttarakand) to feed the animals.

Relief team

On July 26, a joint Team of Raahat Veterinary Hospital (PFA Dehradoon) AAGAAS Federation and PAL Thane, supported by Help Animals India, set out to conduct extended relief operations for the working animals in the Chamoli District, Uttarakhand. There had been a prior plan already in place to help the animals who work so hard going up and down the trails carrying the pilgrims, and an on-the-ground assessment had been done prior to the floods.

It’s not easy for someone who’s never been there to form a clear picture of where the sites are and of the situation.  All disaster are difficult, and this one is no exception.  Stressed and overwhelmed government authorities are trying to help the humans as a priority.  Animal groups are struggling heroically to help thousands of animals, with meager resources, not enough government help, difficult communications, dangerous rushing rivers, and the nearly insurmountable challenge of trying to get helicopters to air-drop fodder, and temporary bridges built to evacuate the mules, horses, and donkeys.

Help still needed

Help is still much needed, and animal groups continue to do exhausting work to get food and medical care to the animals.

To give a donation, here is the website of Help Animals India .       

To read this and other news, here is the Facebook page of PFA Dehradun (caution – disturbing photos).

Top photo: Courtesy of PFA Dehradun / Food relief team treating one of the horses. 

Second photo: anarupa_chowdhury / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.”/ Horses on the route to Kedarnath, before the floods. 

Third photo: Samadolfo / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Horses on a hill near Kedarnath, before the floods, July 3, 2011.