The impact of war on wildlife, pets and the environment

| Tue Aug. 15, 2006 7:42 PM EDT

An oil spill in Lebanon is being called a "major catastrophe" by the Lebanese government. The spill was created when Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jyiieh power station, and it now covers fifty miles of coast. It is estimated that the amount of oil that has entered the water is almost the amount that entered during the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident. Environment Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf said "We have never seen a spill like this in the history of Lebanon. It is a major catastrophe." The cost of the clean-up is estimated to be between $40 and $50 million.

The green sea turtle, which is endangered, nests on the coast of Lebanon. Some of the oil has settled on the sea floor, where tuna spawn.

There is also a problem with forest fires. According to Mounir Abou Ghanem, director general of the Association for Forest Development and Conservation in Beirut, there is no one to deal with the fires in Lebanon because the priority is relief and humanitarian work.

In the meantime, the animals in both Lebanon and Israel are suffering and dying. Rescue groups in Lebanon are doing their best to rescue stranded pets and feed any wandering animals. One shelter was hit by shrapnel and another was very close to a site that was bombed, so the rescuers are in danger, as well as the animals. Evacuees are seeing and running over dead animals on the roads as they flee.

In northern Israel, where people must abandon their homes, there are daily requests for shelter for pets. A rescue group, Let the Animals Live, is finding foster homes, feeding abandoned animals, and in a move reminiscent of Katrina, trying to get into houses to rescue abandoned pets. Rescuers in Israel are also tending to pets that have been injured by rockets.

And also reminiscent of Katrina, Americans and Canadians evacuated from Lebanon are not allowed to take their pets with them.