Millions of working animals around the world are set to die in the coming decade due to drought, natural disasters and environmental catastrophes, experts have warned.
More than 200 million working animals – such as horses, donkeys, camels, oxen and elephants – currently support the livelihoods of at least 600 million people in the world’s poorest communities.
But flooding, cyclones and wildfires are having a devastating – and worsening – impact on working animals and the families they support in low-income countries worldwide.
Official figures in India estimate 17,000 animals (including oxen and buffaloes) were killed by cyclones across the country in 2020, and nearly one million cattle are thought to be lost to flooding every year.
And as much as 80 percent of Somaliland’s livestock died as a result of the crippling drought affecting east Africa in 2017.
Global animal charity SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) is calling on governments to take measures to protect the "silent victims" of climate change, as the COP26 United Nations climate conference approaches its 1st November start date.
Linda Edwards, Chief Executive of SPANA, said: “The spiralling climate disaster is now high on the political agenda. But the devastating impact of on animals is still almost completely overlooked.
“Animals are suffering terribly from drought and the extremes of climate change, paying the ultimate price in vast numbers.
“And there is a heavy human cost to the loss of these animals too, as so many families in the world’s poorest regions depend on them for their survival.
“We have reached crisis point – every day the lives of working animals and those that depend on them are made worse by the devastating effects of extreme weather.
“It is imperative that firm international commitments are made to address the wider impact of climate change.”
In response to the escalating crisis, SPANA is providing a lifeline to working animals in many of the world’s poorest communities.
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The charity is providing free veterinary care and vaccination programmes, as well as carrying out emergency projects to ensure that water, feed and shelter from extreme conditions is available to animals in desperate need.
Following the most severe drought in years in the Turkana region of Kenya, SPANA constructed a 110-metre-deep solar-powered borehole to provide a sustainable supply of fresh water for more than 15,000 animals and nomadic pastoralist communities.
When climate change and disasters strike, the loss of these animals can jeopardise the survival of entire communities.
On World Animal Day (4th October), SPANA is calling for urgent, international action to protect animals and the vulnerable communities they support.
John Craven OBE, Patron for the charity, added: “The climate crisis is affecting every one of us, in all parts of the world, but it is often communities and animals in developing countries that are suffering the most.
“Working animals overseas help ensure the survival of millions of families who have almost nothing. But the survival of these animals themselves is now at severe risk.
“It’s time to give them the urgent support they need. SPANA is making a lifesaving difference, providing relief for working animals facing the consequences of environmental turmoil across the world.”
Find out more about the impact of climate change on working animals by visiting the SPANA website.
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