More animals are alive on Taal Volcano Island, but the lockdown imposed by authorities across Batangas province has hampered efforts to rescue them, animal rights workers said Friday.
At least 100 live animals were spotted on the volcano island five days after Taal emitted a giant ash cloud that spread across Northern Luzon.
Philippine Army Brig. Gen. Marceliano Teofilo, commander of Task Force Taal, said aerial reconnaissance Friday morning spotted about 100 animals, including horses and cattle, still scattered around the island.
“Not a lot of animals are left because in the past few days we have evacuated several of them,” Teofilo told radio dzMM.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has led rescue efforts, with three of their members stranded on Taal island on Wednesday after they tried to save some animals amid the volcano’s unrest.
READ: PETA comes to rescue of abandoned animals
PETA spokesperson Jana Sevilla said the trio were left behind on the island because of miscommunication with the boat captain. They were later rescued by Coast Guard personnel.
Sevilla also denied a report that all animals on the volcano island were killed after Sunday’s explosion.
“When we got there [Thursday] a lot more animals were alive than dead. That puzzled us, as we were expecting the worst,” she said.
More than 57,000 people have abandoned homes on the volcanic island and its environs, usually thronged by tourists, but many have also drifted back to check on animals and possessions.
Officials earlier said there were at least 3,000 horses living on the island, most earning money for their owners by carrying tourists to the rim of the volcano crater.
PETA has claimed that the government was too slow to give them the opportunity to save the animals, while their owners have urged authorities to allow the rescue of as many animals as possible, taking advantage of what appeared to be a lull in volcano activity.
They have been rebuffed by the coast guard patrolling the lake.
Still, Teofilo said retrieval operations by the coast guard and maritime police on the island are ongoing.
“Our primordial concern is the safety of our people, our province mates,” he said. “When we say no [to rescuers, people] have to heed it because we can’t risk it, the situation is very volatile.”
“We will take our cue from PHIVOLCS. That’s the reason why the 14-kilometer danger zone is enforced because up to now it’s hard to predict when it will erupt again,” he said.
The head of the state seismology agency also discouraged residents and groups from going back to the island to rescue animals.
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