Countless animals have been killed by wildfires raging through Greece this week. Animal welfare groups are appealing to people to evacuate their animals.

Greek citizens are being urged not to leave horses, dogs or other animals trapped as the country braces for a second heatwave.

Countless pets, farm animals and wildlife have been killed by wildfires raging through Greece this week. Animal welfare groups have appealed to people to evacuate their animals, but that’s not always proved possible in the worst-hit areas around Attica and Rhodes.

After blazing through swathes of forest and homes since Monday, the fires appeared to have been largely contained. But a second heatwave is forecast to drive temperatures above 40C, reigniting tinderbox conditions in forests, the Greek meteorological service has warned.

“Unfortunately, we already know about dozens of animals burned in shelters and we try in cooperation with volunteers and rescue groups to release as many animals as possible,” the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Companion Animals in Greece said on Facebook. “Every life has value,” they added, urging people fleeing the fires to take their animals with them, and “under no circumstances” leave them trapped and chained.

Horses are being evacuated from stables

In Pounari, northwest of Athens, dramatic scenes showed horse handlers leading their charges away from the line of fire on Tuesday.

Authorities told residents of nearby villages to leave their homes as flames approached, and some managed to save their animals too. “We are heading to Mandra, wherever it is safe for the family. I hope God lends a hand, there is nothing more to say. You can see the bitterness in my wife’s eyes,” local resident Meletis Redoumis told the Reuters news agency. “I just want my family to be okay. We took only the basic necessities, clothes, water, and some sandwiches for the kids and milk for the baby. We are six people, four kids and two adults. We also took the two dogs and the birds.”

In the Kalyvia and Anavyssos areas of southeast Attica, the Special Secretariat called on volunteers to loan trucks in order to rescue animals from stables and animal shelters.

Dogs and cats are being taken in at Galatsi, a suburb north of Athens, where the local council and animal charity Dog’s Voice have prepared space for them in a former quarry. While horses and other ‘working animals’ are being accommodated at a shelter in Polydendri.

People in the hotspots can call 213 1364020 for help in rescuing and transporting animals, the Secretariat said yesterday. It urged owners with lots of animals to evacuate preventatively and not underestimate the intensity and speed of the fires.

Anyone who sees animals in danger or distress should assist if possible but, if unable to help, should note their exact locations and alert authorities, says animal rights organisation PETA.

Why are forests going up in smoke?

Fires are common in Greece, but hotter, drier and windy summers have turned the Mediterranean into a wildfire hotspot in recent years, Reuters reports. Alongside the region’s increased vulnerability to climate change, experts point to the deteriorating health of forests as a factor for more ferocious wildfires.

Climate Home News has previously reported how changes in the management of Aleppo pines – once milked extensively for their resin – have turned the woods of Attica into “fire bombs”.

Just like in Spain, Portugal and Italy, the swing from smallholder farming – where families would graze and protect the land – to large farms can be a form of fire hazard.

“As part of the global climate crisis response, governments must improve how we regenerate forests, as there is a real limit to any wildfire protection measure once monoculture and fire-prone forests start to burn,” says Pieter Van Midwoud, Chief Tree Planting Officer of Ecosia. “Given that regular, devastating wildfires are now at our doorstep in Europe, we must do more to ensure our forests are more fire resilient, with vegetation following soil patterns and include diverse, natural species.”

PETA has also drawn a link between climate-driven wildfires and animal agriculture. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and in this case, no one should ignore how animal agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions fuel the climate catastrophe and create conditions that let wildfires spread,” PETA’s vice president of programmes Elisa Allen tells Euronews Green.

“PETA urges everyone to take personal responsibility for the unprecedented heatwave hitting Greece and other European countries by keeping animals off our plates and opting for planet-friendly vegan foods that keep skies clear.”

Original source: https://www.euronews.com/