Colombia produces 36 million tons of sugar cane each year and fire is at the very heart of the operation. Field burning is carried out before harvesting the cane to make the process easier as the leaves dissolve in the flames, leaving only the stalks behind. The fires have long posed a severe threat to wildlife who make their home in and around the cane fields, and most recently, led to an urgent rescue mission.
“The wooded area known as ‘Los Menas’ in Zarzal in the Cauca Valley lies adjacent to extensive sugar cane cultivations,” explains Víctor Manuel Herrera Castillo of the Fundacion San Francisco de Asis Zarzal. “For some time now it has been home to a colony of feral cats, numbering at present about twenty. Our foundation is involved in the protection of the environment here, and in addition to sheltering sixty dogs, we also conduct an ongoing feline sterilization program with a view to limiting their uncontrolled reproduction which could eventually create public health problems in the nearby urban areas. We are also feeding the cats so that they will not hunt the wild creatures such as squirrels, troupials, blue jays, ring doves, great thrushes etc.”
“On the day before the burning of the cane we were contacted by the sugar engineering expert Mr. R.P. and told that there was a family of new-born kittens who were in danger of being trapped in the flames,” Victor continued.
There was no question that the mother cat would be unlikely to move all her kittens quickly enough once the blaze began. So as she nursed her kittens in the field, blissfully unaware of the danger soon coming her way, plans were swiftly made to save the feline family.
“After a careful and thorough search we located them and brought them in,” Victor explains. “Everyone was happy.”
Mama cat and her kittens were all saved that day and the youngsters recently turned six months old. But the threat of fire is far from over. The annual burning of the crops poses a potential threat to all manner of wildlife who make their home in and around the sugar can fields and an uncontrolled blaze in the adjacent forest could have disastrous consequences for thousands of animals.
Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase