The earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 was the strongest to ever hit that country, and the fifth largest in recorded history. By now, we have all heard stories of the damage done, both from the earthquake its self and the resulting tsunami. The death toll and missing persons count is off the charts. As time goes on, special interest groups around the world are rallying to help their colleagues in Japan.
One major concern is for Japan’s zoos and aquariums. The damage was centered in the northern part of Honshu Island, and several aquariums there suffered substantial damage. Thankfully, no human damage has so far been reported. According to the news release issued by the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the main concern at most institutions is structural damage to exhibits and power outages, which shut down life-support systems. Many aquariums have lost substantial numbers of fish and invertebrates. Marine mammals and birds are faring better, and those species at Sendai’s Matsushima Aquarium and the Fukushima Aquarium are being transported to Kamogawa Sea World.
Several other zoos and aquariums are suffering power outages and shortages of food, water, and fuel. The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) is considering concrete plans to send food and fuel to these zoos, starting with Sendai Yagiyama Zoo. The measures are complicated because overland transportation is treacherous and unpredictable. All vehicular movement is being coordinated by Japan’s Self Defense Forces, which are stretched incredibly thin as it is.
Those in America and other countries with contacts at Japan’s zoos, such as the authors of That Reptile Blog, say that the keepers and other staff are splitting their time between animal and human concerns, but that cooperation between institutions is impressive. Priorities include evacuating animals with flooded or unsafe enclosures and getting food and materials to those animals that are able to stay where they are. Food and supplies are also needed for human caregivers, as most are unwilling to leave their animal charges.
“It is most important for us to secure the adequate means of transport. And we have started a drive to collect donations from the public.” says Kazutoshi Takami, Zoo Veterinarian at Osaka Municipal Tennoji Zoological Gardens to WAZA. WAZA has set up a “Donate to Japan’s Zoos” on its website to solicit international donations. JAZA has also issued an open letter to anyone who can help with money, materials, hands-on or advice. Its official Facebook page will also contain updates on relief efforts as they become available.
“After the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, WAZA is trying to provide financial support for emergency assistance. The most affected zoos and aquariums urgently need help in order to protect staff and save animals,” says Gerald Dick, Executive Director of WAZA – the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
To donate to Japan’s zoos and aquariums, please visit the WAZA website and click on the “Donate for Japan” button.
Press Release, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Mr. Shigeyuki Yamamoto , Official Letter from Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums
That Reptile Blog Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami – Zoo and Aquarium Concerns http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2011/03/18/japan%E2%80%99s-earthquake-and-tsunami-zoo-and-aquarium-concerns/
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums website