Americas
3 Mar 2017

Going through fire and water to save wildlife

After the forest fires that recently affected Chile and the disaster that followed, a large number of volunteers went to the affected areas to help rescue native and disoriented wildlife - meet two of them

Volunteers have helped rescue wildlife affected by Chile's wildfires © CODEFF
Volunteers have helped rescue wildlife affected by Chile's wildfires © CODEFF
By CODEFF (BirdLife Chile)

Nicole Salazar and Gerardo Domenech are only two of the many volunteers that travelled hundreds of kilometres from the capital Santiago to the Maule region to help wildlife affected by the worst fires in Chile’s modern history. CODEFF dedicates this interview to all of the unrewarded heroes that continue to help out during these difficult times.

Do you want to help Chile's wildlife? Donate through PayPal below.

*If you are donating from the United States and would like a receipt for tax purposes, please contact Wendy Clark at wendy.clark@birdlife.org before making your donation. U.S. donations requiring tax receipts should not be made through PayPal.

What motivated you to travel so far in order to help wildlife?

Nicole: I was in the capital Santiago, witnessing everything that was happening. I felt desperate, thinking about the tragedy and all the people who were suffering. Then I found myself in anguish after thinking about all the animals affected. I had to do something, go anywhere, to offer my help. Since I just graduated this year as a veterinary technician, my first idea was to try to help the animals, since these are the skills that I have. Seeing how there were so many wounded animals, I thought my knowledge could be of use in this terrible situation. So mostly it was my love towards animals and the need to safeguard our nature that moved me.

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As we understand your partner Gerardo didn’t have any veterinary training and still went out to help.

Gerardo: I studied network engineering but as a couple we have always had a tremendous love for animals and nature. We are always traveling – we often grab the backpack and go anywhere in our spare time. This time we had to do it for a different reason.

Can you describe some of the species affected by the wildfires?

Nicole: I found a Chilean Flicker that was dead but intact – he had not been burned but was most likely affected by the fumes. I also found scorched rodents that could not be identified – only recognizable as mice because of the incisors.

What are some of the animals you managed to rescue?

We’ve seen foxes, eagles and other large birds. We also rescued a long-tailed snake – endemic to Chile - that was in good condition, so it was sent to the rescue centre and then quickly released. We rescued intact lizards that were released a little further in a safe area as well. That same day we also found a puddle contaminated with oil, where there were many tadpoles, some already in their final stage and were eating each other! We rescued those who were almost ready to hatch and sent them to a specialist who explained that they were actually endemic Chilean frog species.

What’s next for the volunteer team?

It’s difficult to say because this will be an ongoing work. The injured animals keep coming. Now once this is over, they are talking about reforesting the affected areas and it’s something we hope to continue to collaborate on.

How could you describe the experience of helping out as volunteer with CODEFF?

Nicole and Gerardo, two of the volunteers helping wildlife.

Nicole: The CODEFF talks have had a motivating effect on us. Seeing the specialists and their motivation has encouraged me to develop my career towards wildlife rehabilitation. All the knowledge the CODEFF people have and the love they projects towards the work they do has been so inspiring.

Gerardo: We have learned so much and met so many great experienced people such as CODEFF CEO Mauricio Valiente and everyone involved in the training. We are very grateful for the space given to train the volunteers and we’re lucky to be gaining knowledge about the flora and fauna of our country. Everyone we’ve met all share the same ideas and interests - we all speak the same language. We hope to continue collaborating! 

Do you want to help Chile's wildlife? Donate through PayPal below.

*If you are donating from the United States and would like a receipt for tax purposes, please contact Wendy Clark at wendy.clark@birdlife.org before making your donation. U.S. donations requiring tax receipts should not be made through PayPal.