A low pressure system caused heavy rains in Costa Rica during the last week, with the northern part of the country most affected. A team from WSPA arrived in the zone within two days and visited the affected areas where mostly poor communities live, on small farms with free range cattle and poultry.
The first thing the WSPA team did upon arrival on December 15th was to meet the National Animal Health Service (SENASA) and Civil Defence representatives, in order to offer our help and be informed about the local situation. SENASA and Civil Defence had identified communities along both shores of the Sarapiquí river, one of the main rivers in the zone that has overflowed, as being the worst affected by the floods.
Once briefed, the WSPA team, along with officials from SENASA, left by boat to visit the communities and farmers in this area. During the trip, the team verified that although most of the animals have survived the floods, the next 15-30 days are going to be extremely difficult for them, due to the damage in pastures and other food sources like plantain and sugar cane. "The higher impact of a flood comes after the rains and the overflowing rivers: the destruction of food sources for the animals and an increased possibility of their getting sick due to malnutrition and contaminated water-related bacteria," said Dr. Vásquez, Disaster Management Veterinarian Officer, WSPA.
While out in the boat, the team saved a cow that was swimming in the middle of the river, by driving the boat towards it and causing it to move towards the shore, where it was able to climb out of the water and on to safe land on its own. The cyclonic force of the swollen waters (the river was about five meters beyond its normal depth at the time) causes animals to be pushed down repeatedly, and dragged to the center of the river where they usually get tired and drown. “By forcing the cow to swim to an eddy near an area recognised by the team as being safe, we were able to save it without even touching it! That's the best way to rescue them," explained Vásquez.
On the second and final day of the assessment, the team was able to visit several communities in other areas that could be reached by land. WSPA's aid was focused on providing emergency supplies of mineral salts, deworming and antibiotics; the SENASA staff will help distribute these supplies to the animals and farmers in most need. We expect at least 2,000 cattle, chickens, pigs, and dogs will receive the emergency medications they need, thanks to this exercise.