PAW-SITIVE PAS­SIONS

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Roni Bin­tang risks his life to cap­ture self­less vol­un­teers feed­ing Mount Agung’s res­i­dent pets, even as the vol­cano threat­ens to erupt.

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents - BY RONI BIN­TANG

The world’s eyes have been on Bali since 22 Septem­ber last year, when au­thor­i­ties de­clared the high­est level of alert for Mount Agung and warned that the first ma­jor erup­tion in 54 years could be im­mi­nent.

Over the last five months, an es­ti­mated 140,000 peo­ple from over 25 vil­lages have evac­u­ated their homes. To date, the un­pre­dictable vol­cano con­tin­ues to spew col­umns of ash over the dis­as­ter-prone area that spans a 11km ra­dius, which stops the res­i­dents from re­turn­ing home. Adding to their worry are the furkids that they have left be­hind.

That’s where a group of an­i­mal lovers have stepped in to help. Al­most ev­ery day, four or five vol­un­teers load a car with do­nated pet food and drive into the dan­ger zone from Bali’s cap­i­tal, Den­pasar.

FEED­ING THE HUN­GRY

Upon ar­riv­ing at the des­o­late vil­lage, the vol­un­teers place food in pa­per plates and the aban­doned pooches start to ap­pear. Through­out each day, the ded­i­cated team meets more than 200 pups—some are shy at first and oth­ers are ex­cited, but all are starv­ing since ash has burnt away the re­main­ing crops. The group has dis­trib­uted more than seven tons of dog and cat food, which are all gen­er­ously pro­vided from anony­mous donors.

“If there are still peo­ple in the vil­lage, they will feed the dogs and cats,” says vol­un­teer Nana Prayoga. “But what if there are no more hu­mans left? What hap­pens to the an­i­mals left be­hind? We have to come and help them.”

COM­ING TO­GETHER

This in­de­pen­dent group of dog lovers spon­ta­neously ral­lied to­gether through Face­book on 23 Septem­ber. Now, the group con­sists of around 35 reg­u­lar vol­un­teers, rang­ing from stu­dents to work­ing adults. “I’ll help to feed the dogs and cats as for as long as they need help,” says vol­un­teer Mi­dori Okada, 50, a Ja­pa­nese woman who’s lived in Bali for the last 20 years. The team co­or­di­nates their shifts through What­sApp, and those who don’t go up to the dan­ger zone keep the group up­dated on the lat­est weather re­ports.

RISK­ING IT ALL

The phys­i­cal dan­gers are very real—ash clouds gush out from the vol­cano’s mouth and tremors from nearby earth­quakes con­tinue to strike the is­land. Vol­un­teers can only stay 15 to 20 min­utes in each vil­lage be­fore mov­ing onto the next vil­lage for fear that the volatile vol­cano may erupt. Yet, th­ese self­less in­di­vid­u­als only have the wel­fare of the for­got­ten pups in mind. “When I see the dogs ap­proach us, I feel that they’ve put their trust in us,” says Ke­van Cahyadi, 23, univer­sity grad­u­ate. “When I see how happy they are, I for­get the dan­ger of the sit­u­a­tion.”

GIV­ING BACK

Join­ing Nana on the mis­sion to the vil­lages of Te­mukus, Be­sakih and Ba­tus­esa, which are lo­cated in­side the dis­as­ter-prone area, is Ida Ayu Astiti, 22. The univer­sity stu­dent has been feed­ing the de­serted dogs two to three times a week since Septem­ber, when the vil­lage’s res­i­dents started to evac­u­ate to the shel­ters. “I am so sad to see them starv­ing,” she says. “The least I can do is fork out some time to feed them.”

CAP­TUR­ING THE MO­MENTS

Pho­tog­ra­pher Roni Bin­tang ex­plains his ra­tio­nale be­hind cap­tur­ing th­ese vol­un­teers’ work. “Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing dan­ger­ous work with­out any need for recog­ni­tion or re­ward,” he shares. “They’re to­tally mo­ti­vated and self­or­gan­ised in want­ing to help the dogs and cats. I felt this was a great story to bring at­ten­tion to how this dis­as­ter is af­fect­ing the peo­ple, an­i­mals and en­vi­ron­ment of Bali.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.