Catastrophic lava flow from the Kilauea volcano and earthquakes have wreaked havoc on the Big Island of Hawaii prompting a mass exodus. This coupled with excessive emissions of poisonous sulfur dioxide gas continues to be a threat to man and beast. Homes and buildings have been razed affecting over 2,000 people. Pets and animals are most at risk when left behind or separated from pet owners and animal advocates.
If there's a lot of sulfur blown consistently in the same direction, it can kill plants and cause respiratory failure in animals and humans. As is typical in Hawaii, winds have blown primarily from the east during the eruption, spreading the foul air as far as 60 miles across the southern part of the island.
While we wait for additional insights and statistics regarding animals and pets, there are some anecdotal reports that offer up a ray of hope.
At the Red Cross Shelter, kids were reported playing on a jungle gym alongside more than a dozen dogs, chickens, two parrots and a goose.
Evacuee Sammy Walton said he wasn’t in a hurry to get home. He, his wife and their dog, Sugar, had been welcomed with open arms at the shelter, which was well-stocked with donated water, food and pet food.
Sitting with Sugar in his lap, Walton said he’s happy to take the bad with the good when it comes to living the island lifestyle: “I knew about the volcano when I moved here. It’s part of living in Hawaii.”
Evacuee Ellie Garnett fretted about her four dogs and cat, Scarlet, whom she inadvertently left behind during the evacuation.
Volcanic disruption for animals elsewhere . . .
At this juncture, while it isn't certain how badly animals or pets were affected, there is historic evidence that volcanoes can kill and disrupt animal life in many ways.
Livestock and other mammals have been killed by lava flows, pyroclastic flows, tephra falls, atmospheric effects, and gases. They can also die from famine, forest fires, and earthquakes caused by or related to these eruptions.
Mount St. Helens provides an example. The Washington Department of Game estimated that 11,000 hares, 6,000 deer, 5,200 elk, 1,400 coyotes, 300 bobcats, 200 black bears, and 15 mountain lions died from the lava flows of its 1980 eruption.
Aquatic life can be affected by an increase in acidity, increased turbidity, change in temperature, and/or change in food supply. These factors can damage or kill fish.
Eruptions can also influence bird migration, roosting, flying ability, and feeding activity.
More to report, as this event is far from over . . .
The U.S. Geological Survey said this event is far from completion. More earthquakes and eruptions could cover the area with plumes of ash for weeks to come. The agency said it measured a jarring 477 earthquakes on the island over the past 24 hours, though many were small and hopefully did not frighten or injure the pets and animals left behind.
In the coming weeks, I will be publishing a follow-up to this blog as we learn more about how the animals and pets were affected on the Big Island. Readers, please comment below if you know more about on topic. Your social journalism is welcome.
Primary Source: Volcano World