While all the creatures are okay and the barns, house, and office, there was still damage from the wildfire late last week. Despite the catastrophic nature of the fire, thankfully, there is no catastrophe here.
The damages are limited, but will still be impactful. Due to our emergency plan and the backup systems we have in place, we were fully functioning immediately. We’ve already done a few emergency repairs that help every day feel a little closer to “normal,” although little is normal at the moment. We are looking at increased expenses and an increased workload for at least the next several weeks.
OUR WATER SYSTEM
One of the most urgent items right now are supplies for our water system. A total of 3 water tanks melted in the fire and will need to be replaced. Thankfully, our back-up water system was untouched, and our four “emergency” water storage tanks that we set up two months ago, are fine. We are using our tractor and water tanker to fill the tanks because all of the plumbing, pumps, and electric at the spring has melted and will need to be replaced. We had discussed wanting to change the electric line and bury it, and now the fire has forced our hand.
Most of our water pipes are underground. They go above ground in a few locations so we can have emergency water shutoffs and spigots. What was above-ground has melted – we estimate needing to replace 150-200 meters (500-650 feet) of water pipe. Our maintenance team is focusing on replacing that first. Our sweet weekly produce delivery person, Benedito, who doesn’t usually work weekends, delivered some replacement water pipes and valves early Saturday morning, which helped repairs immediately.
THE WOOD FENCES
The fires shifted some priorities on our ever-lengthy “To-Do” list. Outside of our water system, our most extensive repair will be near the house and office. While the elephant fencing is all steel, the fences elsewhere are not. Our garden burned – and not just the garden itself, but the fence around it that protects it from wildlife is gone. Alma, our resident blind tapir with epilepsy, lives in a fenced-in area near the house as well. Her corral is a refurbished old cow corral, which we repaired in emergency fashion when Sema asked us to take a tapir. We knew we would need to replace it at some point due to termite damage, but now the back section has burned (she is safely closed in the front section) and needs to be replaced immediately.
We also do wildlife rehabilitation and release in conjunction with our state agricultural agency. The fire destroyed the back half of the corral we use for rehab and release (no one was occupying it at the time). While the fire on our property was damaging, there are catastrophic fires a few hours from here, in the Pantanal. We recently agreed to take on some later-stage rehab and release burn patients (deer, tapirs, and possibly anteaters) from the fires in the Pantanal. The wildlife isn’t ready for us yet, as they are still receiving intensive care in clinics, but we need to prepare for their arrival. We need to prioritize replacing that fence to help those animals in dire need. If they do not come to us, the alternative location for them is a zoo.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF LAND CLEARED BY THE FIRE FOR A BAMBOO & SUGAR CANE “GARDEN”
As a much smaller expense, in part of the area impacted by fire, we plan to begin growing bamboo and sugar cane for the elephants- also on our future to-do list, but once again, it’s silly not to take advantage of the cleared land. This will allow us to ultimately grow more food for the elephants on grounds. It will be a small area, and it will reduce costs in the long run, but in the short term, we will need to invest in the plants and time.
INCREASED SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING FOR THE ELEPHANTS
In terms of the elephants, we are feeding additional hay to the girls, due to the extended dry season, and now damage to the palms throughout the sanctuary. Since most of the elephant habitat was untouched by fire due to our emergency plan, we don’t expect the elephant care costs to rise much, outside of an increase in supplemental feeding.
BUT EVERYTHING THAT NEEDED SAVING WAS SAVED
Usually, when we launch fundraisers, we have goals and budgets in mind. We honestly don’t know the monetary amount of damages caused in the fire at this point, but we need to focus on repairs immediately. We are already spending money, replacing and repairing our most urgent needs.
We know this is a hard time for so many, but we also know many of you are asking how you can help.
Everything that is damaged will cost money to repair or replace, but it’s all superficial. Everything that needed saving was saved, which is truly all that matters.
HOW TO DONATE TO OUR FIRE RECOVERY FUND
For those who are able to help our recovery from the wildfire, please DONATE HERE. Unless otherwise specified, all donations to our website or through Facebook for the next two weeks will go toward fire recovery.
We can’t tell you how appreciative we are for all the assistance that has poured out –Benedito’s delivery of water lines on a Saturday morning is just one example of many. Our SEB volunteers from all over Brazil have been coordinating help nonstop over the past few days. We’ve been overwhelmed by the firefighters’ kindness and the outpouring of love and support from our neighbors and sanctuary family. There has been a tremendous effort to help us. We know recovery will take a lot of time and money, but we know the land, the animals, and the organization will recover.
The video is of life continuing as normal for the elephants – Mara is scratching on a tree next to a snacking Bambi. Rana searches for treats. Lady is observing in the distance. Maia isn’t pictured, but she was off in Yard 5. We are grateful that the habitat, and the lives of our residents, were not substantially impacted.
Please know how grateful we are to all of you, our sanctuary family, for your good thoughts, wishes, and support.