Cape Cod-based IFAW Team Travels to Caribbean Islands Impacted by Hurricane Irma

In this Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, photo, damage is left after Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda. (AP Photo/Anika E. Kentish)

YARMOUTH PORT – Members of the Yarmouth Port-based International Fund for Animal Welfare are in Antigua and Barbuda to assess the wildlife situation following Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that leveled the islands.

IFAW Spokesperson Kerry Branon said three members, including two from the Cape, flew to the islands Thursday.

The organization was asked by the government of Antigua and Barbuda to help in the Hurricane Irma relief effort.

“We have a well-oiled machine here with our disaster response team,” said Branon. “They’re really looking for us to assess the impact of the storm on the animals – both community animals and wildlife, and their habitats as well.”

Branon said it is hard to know what kinds of challenges the team will face until they survey the area.

“Sometimes people may need help with their farm animals. Some people may have lost their pets,” she said. “Some wildlife may have been displaced from their homes because of strong winds and that sort of thing.”

Branon said their members are well-trained and highly prepared for the relief effort.

IFAW’s entire disaster response team conducted annual training last week in Yarmouth.

“Now they are in the middle of trying to respond to three different islands,” Branon said.

The goal of the assessment is to understand what is going on to figure out what resources are then needed.

“But certainly, the team is capable of providing veterinary care, setting up systems to reunite pets with their owners, and treating wildlife and getting them into rehabilitation centers and that sort of thing,” Branon said.

Branon said a timetable has not been set for the mission.

“It will be decided between the government and what the team finds,” she said.

IFAW is also heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands, including St. Thomas and St. John, and just returned from a response in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

The organization has provided similar relief after U.S. disasters since Hurricane Katrina impacted the Gulf Coast in 2005, and internationally after earthquakes and tsunamis.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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