SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA – It seems simpler than it is: rescuing four volcano dogs trapped in their tiny islet amid a sea of hot, smoking lava on La Palma, the island where there is little sign of a speedy end to the volcanic eruption.
We wrote on Monday about the Galician company Aerocamaras that is preparing a rescue of the dogs with a large drone that can handle the weight of the animals. The company has designed a special net of stiff material, where wet food can be placed in the middle. As soon as the dogs get there, the net closes. Then the drone with cargo can move off taking the animals to a safer place.
The companies Titcom and Volcanic Life have already managed to keep the animals alive for more than a week. Using drones, they are bringing water and food to their island in the middle of the lava. According to the employees, the dogs already recognise the sound of the drones. As such, they enthusiastically run towards the buckets of ice (to drink from when it has melted) and food.
Why haven’t the volcano dogs been rescued yet?
So why haven’t the animals been rescued yet? First of all, because the red-hot, smoking lava has trapped the four podencos from all sides, making the area inaccessible to humans. It is also too hot for helicopters or vehicles.
Secondly, by order of the authorities, the area has been labelled ‘zona de exclución’ (exclusion zone) because of the risks. Therefore, no one is allowed to enter it in any way.
Lastly, current legislation does not allow the transport of live animals by drone
Company rescues dogs at its own expense
The Aerocamaras team has now arrived on La Palma with equipment by ferry. Animal rights activist Leales launched a fundraiser two days ago to fund the operation, which has already raised $13,000. This is despite the fact that Aerocamaras has already indicated that it will bear all costs for the rescue itself. The amount donated so far will therefore be donated to all animal shelters in La Palma. It will also be distributed among the institutions most involved in helping the animals affected by the volcanic eruption.
However, now it is mainly waiting for permission from the various government administrations. This will then enable the current barriers to the rescue operation to be removed. Aerocamaras is confident that the rescue will be allowed, as it will in any case not affect possible evacuations, nor will it interfere with existing ground connections. Moreover, there is no question of lives being endangered. After all, the drones are controlled at a distance of 450 metres from the target.
The authorities need to hurry up with their paperwork because the lava is still moving and there are still earthquakes and it’s only a matter of time before one of the walls of the dog shelter breaks and rescue is no longer possible.
Three types of drones deployed
Three people control three drones: one that can transport materials and possibly the dogs, another drone with a 30x camera to scan the area and verify the safety of the operation. Finally, a drone with a thermal camera to study the terrain and find out which route is the least warm.
Should the rescue of the animals not be possible, efforts will be made to provide shelter and food to the dogs in larger quantities to increase their chances of survival.
System may also be used in other disasters
The system is a pioneer in Spain and will be presented by the animal rights organisation to the autonomous communities for consideration in animal evacuation plans in case of disasters where the lives of rescue workers are at risk, such as forest fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes.
Aerocamaras wrote to all interested parties Monday afternoon on Twitter: “We are making progress with the proceedings with the #emergency agencies and services. Many of you are following us and we want to say #thank you again! We keep working!”