By Lillian Suwanrumpha
In the midst of Thailand’s worst flooding in over 50 years, last week the cabinet announced an official holiday from Octobe 27-31 for those in 21 flood-hit provinces. Many took the opportunity to escape to unscathed areas in the country or abroad to cope with the crisis, leaving the centre of Bangkok a ghost town.
Others, however, opted to stay either to continue working or to use their days off to help others in need – including those of the four-legged kind. A Facebook page by the name of “A Call for Animal Rights” Walk Rally, with over 5,000 subscribers, along with other animal welfare groups in collaboration with The Department of Livestock, has been mobilising volunteers to assist and remove animals from shelters and temples struggling with the rising waters.
A week ago, much-publicised photos and video footage of animals trapped at Wat Suan Kaew in Nonthaburi province resulted in a rescue attempt which saw these volunteers evacuate 600 stray dogs to higher ground with the help of local authorities.
On Monday, 70 recruits travelled from Bangkok around and through flooded areas to Nakhon Pathom province to evacuate 800 dogs and cats after receiving a distress call from the Foundation for Handicapped Animals in Bang Len. Required to navigate a kilometre of inundated roads and fields by boat to reach the centre, the mission was finally accomplished after eight hours of catching, caging and ferrying to dry land. The animals were transported south to another animal shelter in Cha Am district.
One of the regular volunteers, “Jane”, states that rescuing strays such as those in Wat Suan Kaew can be much more difficult compared to Monday’s encounters.
“It was a lot worse last week. The dogs were in bad shape, would bite and were very wild.”
But she, like other animal lovers, is more than happy to give up their time to help despite their own issues arising from the crisis. “The place I work at is in Klong Three [Pathum Thani]…I don’t know how I am supposed to get to work tomorrow!”
The Facebook page “A call for Animal Rights” Walk Rally posts on their wall for volunteers when receiving a call for assistance to rescue animals. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been instrumental in mobilising volunteers during the flooding. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
800 dogs and cats reside in the the Foundation for Handicapped Animals. Such a large number made army transport and Department of Livestock personnel necessary to transport them to an animal quarantine centre in Cha Am, a non-affected province South East of Bangkok. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Helpers wade in what used to be the road leading to the Foundation for Handicapped Animals. The animals were transported by boat around flooded fields to where the road stops a kilometre away. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Volunteers load cages onto boats. Cages were provided by The Department of Livestock and donors to assist the many rescue operations that have taken place since the flooding began. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
The surrounding water was between 50cm to a metre and a half deep. Bang Len district has just been given a 48 hour evacuation notice as authorities claim that the water will continue to rise. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Dogs were moved from their shelters to a platform raised 2 metres above ground. However, the possibility of further flooding determined that the animals required evacuation. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
A volunteer calms a disabled dog before transferring to a cage. The Foundation for Handicapped Animals is primarily for animals with disabilities and relies on charitable donations as well as patronage from Luang Tha Maha Bua, a renowned Buddhist monk. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Although more accommodating than the stray dogs that the volunteer group are familiar with, the animals here are still nervous about moving. Two or three dogs share a cage and they must endure the lack of space until they reach their final destination at the quarantine centre in Cha Am. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Cages are stacked on top of large floating platforms and then moved onto boats to be taken to dry land. Experienced workers from The Department of Livestock help and instruct volunteers during the rescue missions. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Some 60 cats reach dry land. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
A volunteer from the Foundation for Handicapped Animals surveys the area. In the background, residents try to carry on as normal despite calls to evacuate the area. It is currently unclear how long it will be before both animals and evacuees will be able to return to the province. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Lillian Suwanrumpha is a freelance videographer and photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. She can be followed on Twitter @TheLilyFish.