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Wildlife aid agency welcomed in Burma

PUBLISHED: 18:08 28 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:50 16 August 2010

WSPA Director of Disaster Management Phi Russell and two recipients of relief supplies-- livestock food and anti-parasitic medicine--after heavy floods surged through much and Bangladesh.

WSPA Director of Disaster Management Phi Russell and two recipients of relief supplies-- livestock food and anti-parasitic medicine--after heavy floods surged through much and Bangladesh.

© WSPA IMAGES AND ITS IMAGE CONTRIBUTORS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

THE manager of a team of wildlife aid workers has commended the Burmese Government for making them more than welcome .

THE manager of a team of wildlife aid workers has commended the Burmese Government for making them "more than welcome".

A team from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) were granted visas to enter Myanmar this week to provide disaster relief after the country was hit by cyclone Nargis on May 3.

Director of Disaster Management for the WSPA, Philip Russell, from Beckenham, said that a team of three vets led by New Zealander Dr Ian Dacre had arrived in the stricken country on Monday and Tuesday.

But despite reports that humanitarian aid had been diverted and foreign aid workers refused entry to the country, Mr Russell said that the WSPA had been welcomed.

He said: "The first priority to the Government was the people obviously.

"How the Myanmar government does its business is not for me to comment but the Director of Livestock has been extremely helpful. They couldn't do enough to help us, Dr Dacre said he had never been made to feel more welcome."

Former Foreign Office worker Mr Russell, who plans to join the team in two weeks, said that animal aid is vital to ensure the survival of communities in Myanmar.

He said: "What happens when a disaster of this type hits quite poor and rural communities and animals are killed, people's livelihoods are affected. Animals are not just important for nutrition but the biggest export in Burma is rice and buffalo are used to plough and plant rice. The micro issue is the survival of the livelihoods for families, the macro issue is the economy of the country."

Approximately 48 million animals have been wiped out by the cyclone and unconfirmed reports are that as much as 90 per cent of the 42 million poultry in the country have been killed.

Animals could continue to die due to starvation or poisoning by grazing on polluted grass which could affect millions of people in Myanmar and abroad.

The WSPA will be working intensively to ensure that the next rice crop, due to take place in three months, will not be affected by the disaster.

But the aid workers will also be treating domestic pets that have survived the cyclone.

Mr Russell, who was part of the emergency response team in Thailand after the Tsunami in 2004 and in flooded Bangladesh last year, added: "After a disaster, the survivors have gone through a psychological stress. As we saw with hurricane Katrina, when you have lost everything and someone takes away the one thing you have left that you love, that would be too much."

Cyclone Nargis and the subsequent tidal surge killed about 78,000 people and 56,000 went missing with 2.5 million survivors needing food, clean water, shelter and medical care.

The WSPA are now poised to send a team to China following the mass destruction caused by an earthquake two weeks ago where 67,183 died and 20,790 people were reported .

About 420,000 homes in Qingchuan county were destroyed on Tuesday following aftershocks measuring up to 5.7.

n To support WSPA's disaster relief programme and help provide animal welfare relief in Myanmar, please call 0845 0707 500 or go to www.donate.wspa.org.uk/givenow

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