W­hat­sApp res­cue group goes vi­ral

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - Elai­ne King

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.

P­ho­tos: Sup­p­lied

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.

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