WhatsApp rescue group goes viral
Animals from buck to birds, chameleons to bees, have been helped by a WhatsApp group that started with a handful of concerned people after the fires, but it has now grown to thousands of emails pouring onto this forum - highlighting the plight of animals and rescue plans.
The man behind it all is WhatsApp group administrator David Ryan Katz.
“I have been dedicating my time because I do handyman work. I haven’t had an income this month so it is the least I could do.
“The Knysna Fires of June 7 to 12 were declared a national disaster and are widely considered one of the most devastating to hit South Africa since, well, as far back as we’ve documented.
“The sparks ignited suddenly in the early hours of a particularly balmy, mid-winters Wednesday morning. A severe drought along with gale force winds contributed to rapid infernos that swept through the Knysna surrounds and then took the town itself. It went on to consume much of the Garden Route.
“As clouds of black smoke and curtains of coals descended on the region, diminishing visibility and panic ensued. With authorities unprepared and overwhelmed, the town was declared a state of emergency by Wednesday evening. It was a terrifying and desperate scene,” recounts Katz.
During this chaos, a “superdude” created a WhatsApp group to help friends with emergency support online and on the ground.
“Within a few hours the group multiplied and went viral, add three close friends as administrators who very rapidly became superdudes too, with over 5 000 individuals being guided to safety and sanity across the region, country and the world. Yes, the world; people from abroad with loved ones, homes and pets in the area were tuning in for updates and support as very little information was available from local infrastructure or mainstream media.
“As the flames died down in the ensuing days and ashes turned to tears, the WhatsApp groups Eden Fire Relief 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 naturally evolved into a platform for relief, aid, coordination of supplies for stranded individuals, the homeless, charity groups, fundraisers and wildlife preservation. The huge task of responding to, and coordinating, the constant requests along with monitoring ongoing smouldering fires and evacuations opened a gap for two multitasking “lady ninjas” to join the crew, and Eden Be Needin’ was formed,” explained Katz.
PHONE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN
The number I used was 076-640-3845. I sent or received about 20 000 WhatsApp messages, and have about 4GB of photos and videos. I don’t think my phone will ever work the same after this.
“We are now a few weeks into the complete devastation of hundreds of square kilometres of critical biodiversity including indigenous forest and fynbos regions. For the most part, human rehabilitation – homes, food schemes and personal injury – is being addressed, but surviving wildlife that once called Eden home has fled the burnt wastelands and is in danger of dehydrating or starving to death.”
With the help of experts and the generosity of the public and private institutions alike, Eden Be Needin’ has initiated a focused wildlife and habitat restoration project that prioritises the rehabilitation of the now gaping hole in our wildlands. With expert-informed feeding schemes, reforestation, erosion mitigation and educational outreach, there is a hope that the forests and its creatures will return to a thriving state, explains Katz.
DESPERATE ATTEMPTS TO SAVE ANIMAL SPECIES
“Without help, we fear that this decimation of territory will lead to a depletion of species including the rare Brenton blue butterfly, the Knysna dwarf chameleon and the Leto venus moth.
“The awesome other crew members are Rhain Nelson, Jay Tzamtzis, Jess HB, Jess Henson and Philip. We are self-organising beat boxers for the creatures of this environment, working with a growing community of compassionate doers, to make a dent in the inevitable wildlife death toll and help restore the soul and soil of Eden. You’re invited to help heal it. For years to come.”
Volunteers at our first feeding.
Just one of the many feeding points for animals Eden Be Needin’ has set up.
Eden Be Needin’s first food drop with volunteers and Whatsapp group hero David Katz.