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Saving the Victims of Taal Volcano

When the Philippines’ Taal volcano erupted , belching smoke and lava 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) into the air and blanketing the ground with ash for 10 miles (16 kilometers) in every direction, PETA Asia staffers knew the chances were slim that any of the working horses and other animals they’d been providing with essential veterinary care for years had survived. But they didn’t give up hope – they couldn’t: These animals were their friends, including Palakitik, a sweet “community dog” who had always scampered out to greet them whenever they visited the island.

The Philippine government refused to allow anyone into the area surrounding the volcano. “But we’re PETA, so ‘no’ means ‘try harder,’” said PETA Asia Senior Vice President Jason Baker. PETA Asia became the first charity to reach Taal island – and the only organization on the ground working to rescue animals. What the team found was shocking: The island had been transformed from a tropical paradise and popular tourist destination into a gray hellscape dotted with the bodies of dead animals (most of the horses used to haul tourists up the volcano had died) and reeking of decomposing flesh. Their hearts in their mouths, the rescue team called out for Palakitik, not knowing whether she was dead or alive. In stunned disbelief, they watched as she came running toward them through the ash.

Palatik before the eruption.

Palakitik, who has since been adopted by one of her rescuers, is just one of the more than 150 animals, including chickens, pigs, goats, and ducks, PETA Asia staffers and volunteers risked their lives to ferry to safety over the ensuing weeks. They knew that the volcano, which rumbled with ground-shaking explosions for days, could erupt again at any time, which made it all the more urgent to get the surviving animals – many of whom were suffering from dehydration and eye injuries caused by flying ash – off the island. They found one dog hopelessly entangled in a vine – dehydrated, starving, and suffering from gangrene. Being careful not to injure him further, rescuers untangled the grateful pup, carried him down the mountain to their boat, and ferried him across the lake to waiting veterinarians.

Despite everything they’d been through, all the animals sat calmly in PETA Asia’s boats, seeming to realize that they were being rescued. Staffers are finding them loving, permanent homes.

Long before the volcano erupted, a team of PETA Asia staffers, veterinarians, and volunteers as well as a farrier had been conducting clinics to provide the horses on the island with care. Clinic staff treated horses with severe injuries, including one who couldn’t walk because of a huge laceration on her leg, and provided basics like vaccinations and parasite control. The horses were also treated for saddle sores and thrush, and most needed to have their hooves trimmed and teeth filed.

The fate of the horses on Taal island illustrates precisely why PETA warns tourists never to go on animal rides. Long after travelers are back home, the horses, donkeys, camels, and other animals forced to work long hours carrying tourists are still leading lives filled with pain and deprivation.

Take Action Now

Don’t wait until it’s too late: Make a plan now for evacuating your animal companions in the event of a natural disaster.

Learn more about PETA Asia’s Taal rescue mission at