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Forgotten victims of a man-made catastrophe

More pictures on link

4 December 2013

Cats, dogs and ostriches dying around Fukushima, waiting for owners.  You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. This rule seems so true if you look into the story of thousands of animals left behind near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. While wild animals can flee when danger threatens, tame ones become loyal to their surroundings or depend heavily on human care. Many Fukushima animals have died while the surviving ones are still – 18 months later – patiently waiting for their owners to return, says photographer, Yasusuke Ota.

The Fukushima disaster didn’t just affect humans. On March 11 2011, the day after a tsunami damaged a nuclear reactor at Fukushima, all inhabitants within 12 miles of the power plant were evacuated. Along with all their personal belongings but they were forced to leave their pets and farm animals behind. On 14 March, there was a hydrogen explosion at the power plant, making it uncertain when the evacuees might return to their homes.

Animal lover and photographer, Yasusuke Ota was one of the volunteers who risked their own lives to carry animal feed and water back to Fukushima, into the “No go” area. He spoke about his experience and his photographic exhibition, “The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima”, to the audience at an anti-nuclear film festival in Taipei this week.

Photo: Yasusuke Ota/

Ota said it was his love for cats that first drove him to enter the area to capture images of pets and farm animals left behind but what he observed affected him far more than he had expected, and started him thinking about what he could do to help them. “I felt I needed to inform the world and leave evidence of what really happened. So I started to take photos of this while going inside the zone of rescue”.

“We found them in a hell on earth,” he said. The volunteers found cows on their knees, or stuck in bogs and ditches, emaciated horses and pigs stuck in stalls with dead animals that had died of starvation. Ota said some pets died because they were chained up or kept in cages and some starved because they stayed in their houses as if waiting for their owners to return.

Some animals had survived by eating whatever they could find and 18 months on were still patiently waiting for their owners.

Photo: Yasusuke Ota/

While showing a photograph of a sign that read “an area for good living,” Ota added that the place has become “a place to which people never return”.

Many of the images captured by Ota are horrific, depicting a mummified cat on the road, a dog’s lower jaw, a pigsty right between the two nuclear reactors, with dozens of dead pigs. Other images border on the comic; pigs trying to cool off in a shallow puddle of water and two escaped ostriches roaming the streets.

Ota has continued to sneak into the evacuation zone with volunteers to document and help the animals. He said that after two years, cats are the main survivors as most dogs have died and most pigs and cows either died of hunger and illness or were culled by the government.

Less than half of the more than 5,000 dogs living in the area were saved and about 350 of the original 3,500 cows in the area are gathered at a 32-hectare ranch that the volunteers call the “Ranch of Hope”.

However, volunteers say that since cow feed is expensive, they do not know how long the rescue project can continue.

As for Ota himself, after experimenting with different ways to feed the remaining cats in the area, he finally set up 41 feed boxes and provides feed three times a month at his own expense.

“I can’t betray animals that don’t know how to doubt their owners, who wholeheartedly put their trust in them. This tragedy was not caused by earthquake or tsunami. It’s the nuclear power plant,” says Ota.

Voice of Russia, Taipei Times,,
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December 4, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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