Nature & Environment
With the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in full swing, we turn our attention to Rio’s stray cats and the incredible people trying to help them. Games organisers and city government are working together to find homes for cats, dogs and other animals found in Olympic zones so we caught up with local activists and the charity World Animal Protection to talk about the project.
Please tell us about Rio’s stray cats, is it a big problem?
As a local protector working for several years independently and for two years associated with Bigodes do Bunker NGO, I can say that the animal population in Rio in general, especially the cats, face a challenging time. Lately, we’ve experienced a rise of two zoonoses in our city: rabies and sporotrichosis. The former had been gone for a long time but in the last years new cases have been registered. The latter recently became a public health issue and since it takes at least 6 months to treat the illness, many people discard the infected animals. On top of that, we also had cases of FELV and FIV. In Brazil, we do not euthanise animals with this condition which is great in a way, on the other hand we have no structure to test and separate the healthy animals from the sick ones. Today, Rio only has one public shelter that takes care of strays. They do the best they can, but they lack the resources to work effectively.
What is being done to tackle this problem?
Activists are really engaged in capturing, testing, spaying and rehoming the large numbers of stray animals. Rio has many citizens living in poor areas who don’t want to spay their animals and also have a hard time finding a public service that could help them with that. NGO’s like Bigodes do Bunker and many others work to help local activists deal with the huge numbers of abandoned animals that can no longer be accepted in the only pubic shelter in the city. Rio2016 has rescued and is rehoming, among others, cats from the Maracanã region – Brazil’s largest football stadium and home to over 100 stray cats. The animals are being spayed and neutered, vaccinated, dewormed and taken to a provisory shelter built by the Organising Committee. They will be put up for adoption in several fairs that will be held during the games, with the first one happening this Saturday. All the equipment such as pet containers, food and others items bought for this initiative will be donated to the public service for stray animals after the games.
What is the #AbraceUmAmigo initiative?
This programme started in the beginning of 2016 as a way of giving visibility to the animals found by the Sustainability Team in Olympic venues and captured by the city animal protection. Rio 2016 helped promote the animals on their social channels which resulted in the initial 4 finding new homes, like the brilliant Hercules, a black male cat that was photographed and filmed by the Rio2016 crew and found a new family.
How is World Animal Protection Involved in the Olympics?
We are partnering with the Organising Committee for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the run up and during the games and training Olympic operational teams to correctly handle animals, offering guidelines on responsible pet ownership to the local communities, organising adoption campaigns for dogs and cats and we also sponsor all the spay and neuter surgeries, vaccination, deworming and vet care to all cats that will be rescued in the Maracanã complex.
After the Sochi Olympics in 2014, many athletes are known to have adopted animals, do you think this might happen in Rio too and will you be promoting that in any way?
Of course it will be great if athletes want to adopt animals. We do however prefer local adoptions because the transport of the animals is difficult, but all support is welcome!
Do you think the initiatives will have an overall positive impact on Rio’s cats and other stray animals?
The neutering and vaccinating will increase the animals’ chances of survival and we also believe that our educational activities will be very beneficial. The most important thing for us is to leave a legacy and to show that it’s necessary to think about animals when it comes to organising big sporting events and make sure they are treated well.
How can visitors to the games and people abroad help you with your work?
They can help by promoting our adoption events, participating and sharing on social media!