Addressing the Needs of Animals in Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Policies and Actions

· In Sri Lanka, animals vulnerable to natural and climate-related disasters can be categorized into four broad groups: wildlife,farm animals, pets and community animals, and animals in special circumstances(such as those in captivity, zoos, or hospitals).

· The three phases of animal-related needs in disaster situations include pre-disaster and preparedness needs, needs during disasters,and recovery and reconstruction needs in the aftermath of a disaster.

· It is important to address these needs by enhancing the integration of animal-related considerations into Sri Lanka’s legal and policy framework, plans, and actions related to disaster management.

Sri Lanka is faced with a variety of climate- and non-climate related disasters, including floods, droughts, landslides, and storms. These disasters affect human lives and livelihoods, but also the lives and wellbeing of animals. In Sri Lanka, affected animals can be broadly grouped into four categories, namely wildlife, farm animals, pets and community animals, and animals in special circumstances, such as those in zoos, captivity, or veterinary hospitals.

Animals and disasters in Sri Lanka

Animals are of great importance to Sri Lanka’s natural ecosystems, economy, and human communities. The country is considered one of 34 global biodiversity hot spots with 66 critically endangered and 102 endangered animal species as well as a large number of endemic wildlife. In terms of farm animals, the vast majority is comprised of dairy and poultry, with approximately 21 million chicken and 750,000 cattle and buffalo milk cows.

SLYCAN Trust has developed a policy brief on animals and disaster management in Sri Lanka with the support of Humane Society International as part of the project “Facilitating the Development of a Disaster Preparedness Policy for Animals.” The brief was developed based on desk research and inputs from national stakeholders and experts to inform and support policy processes that address the needs of animals in disasters in Sri Lanka.

The policy brief makes a strong case for including animals in the disaster management framework of the country. For example, the farm animal sector contributes almost 1% of GDP and provides incomes to more than 500,000 families but is also highly vulnerable to climate-induced disasters. If adequate steps are not taken to ensure that the needs of farm animals are catered to, human livelihoods and the national economy will be affected as well. Another example:If not properly managed in disaster situations, stray and feral animals can endanger humans by spreading diseases such as rabies during floods.

The above-mentioned animals all have specific needs before, during, and after disasters. The policy brief lists out pre-disaster needs including spay-neuter programmes to reduce stray animals, vaccinations, de-worming of animals, training of first responders, and mapping out stakeholders, resources, roles, mandates, and responsibilities. Furthermore, animals should be included in early warning systems where appropriate. During disasters, there is a need to organize and facilitate search and rescue, shelters, emergency veterinary responses, and a variety of other animal-related tasks. Post-disaster needs include the reconstruction of animal-related infrastructure, relocation and transport of wildlife, statistical assessments of losses and damages in post-disaster situations, and identification of lessons learnt.

Considering animal needs in risk reduction, risk management, and disaster management frameworks, laws, policies, and plans requires awareness and acknowledgement from relevant agencies as well as collaboration, coordination, and exchange of information between different actors and stakeholder groups.

Existing legal and policy frameworks

Sri Lanka has several legal instruments and policies that factor in animal-related needs in case of disasters. For example, these include the Disaster Management Act No. 13 of 2005 and the National Emergency Operations Plan 2015-2019.Institutions that have mandates related to the needs of animals in disasters include the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Disaster Management Centre, the National Disaster Relief Services Centre, the Department of Animal Production and Health, and the Agriculture and Agrarian Insurance Board.

However,only some laws and policies make explicit reference or contain provisions to address to the need to evacuate animals and protect them in disaster situations.The policy brief provides an overview of laws, policies, and processes as well as identified gaps. It also highlights the lack of specific provisions related to animals in disasters. This knowledge product maps out six main areas where gaps and opportunities exist to address animal-related concerns in disaster situations: Institutions; laws, policies, and plans; capacities and technology; finance and resources; data and research; and stakeholder engagement.

Opportunities exist to minimize these gaps, for example by including direct provisions in upcoming policies and plans, integrating animal needs into disaster management or climate commitments, and tracking data on livestock and working animals as per the requirements of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030.

Conclusion

Given the need for targeted and adequate legal, policy, and institutional interventions to address animal-related needs in disaster situations, more awareness and capacity-building is required to define and strengthen the roles of different stakeholders.

Furthermore,the relevant institutions could attempt to enhance inter-institutional and inter-sectoral coordination with clearly established mandates and responsibilities. Additional finance, funding, resources, and technical support are also required, as is more trained personnel, equipment, operations, facilities, supplies, and veterinary units, which could facilitate animal rescue during disasters. Finally, enhanced research, data, and analysis would allow actors to better address animal-related issues.

 

Please find the full policy brief on our Adaptation & Resilience Knowledge Hub.

Author

SLYCAN Trust

SLYCAN Trust is a non-profit think tank. It has been a registered legal entity in the form of a trust since 2016, and a guarantee limited company since 2019. The entities focus on the thematic areas of climate change, adaptation and resilience, sustainable development, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, and animal welfare. SLYCAN Trust’s activities include legal and policy research, education and awareness creation, capacity building and training, and implementation of ground level action. SLYCAN Trust aims to facilitate and contribute to multi-stakeholder driven, inclusive and participatory actions for a sustainable and resilient future for all.

SLYCAN Trust

SLYCAN Trust is a non-profit think tank. It has been a registered legal entity in the form of a trust since 2016, and a guarantee limited company since 2019. The entities focus on the thematic areas of climate change, adaptation and resilience, sustainable development, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, and animal welfare. SLYCAN Trust’s activities include legal and policy research, education and awareness creation, capacity building and training, and implementation of ground level action. SLYCAN Trust aims to facilitate and contribute to multi-stakeholder driven, inclusive and participatory actions for a sustainable and resilient future for all.

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