A day in the life of Scott Cantin

11 August 2014

Every day is different for Scott Cantin. As our Disaster Communications Manager, he’s ready to go anywhere disaster strikes in the Asia Pacific at a moment’s notice.

Scott’s part of a skilled team that’s dedicated to rescuing animals in crisis and helping communities prepare for future catastrophes. We recently spent a day filming with Scott as he revisited the villages in Indonesia affected by the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010. Our disaster response team evacuated and treated approximately 7,000 animals following the eruption, giving their distressed owners hope for the future. 

Here’s Scott’s journal for that day that shows the incredible difference your support has made to the animals and the people who rely on them.

3:15 am – Yogyakarta, Indonesia. We hit the road with two volunteers from one of our Indonesian partners and headed to the Sleman Regency, in the shadow of Mount Merapi. Merapi’s eruption in late 2010 was one of the deadliest in recent history. We evacuated and treated around 7,000 animals at the time, giving their distressed owners hope for the future. Today we’re going back to meet some of the farmers and animals we saved.

4:30 am - After driving through the dimly lit city streets and into the pitch-black countryside, we reach Borobodur, an ancient temple. The stunning view from here shows how close farmlands are to the summit of the volcano.

5:30 am - Evidence of Merapi’s massive eruption is still everywhere. Boulders as big as houses litter the landscape. Abandoned villages and scorched palm tree stumps show the volcano’s deadly power. Lots of cows were sadly burned alive in pyroclastic flows – fast and intensely hot rivers of gas and molten rocks. 

7:00 am - We pull into a small village and look for the leader. When we explain who we are and why we’re here, the village head immediately thanks us. Cows are the lifeblood of the local economy and most households in the area have at least one. Without our help four years ago, the community’s suffering would have been much worse. 

8:00 am – We meet local farmer Yamto Sumarno who explained that he could only rescue two of his cows when the volcano erupted, the other three died. He says most of the cows in the village were killed. Like many farmers I meet, Yamto explains that the cows are vital to his livelihood. They pay for his children's education, his home, and his family’s daily needs.  

“I was so miserable [after the eruption]… everything was destroyed and we were left with only [volcanic] ash and stones…the cattle evacuation was very important because the [surviving] cows were used to pay for the kids’ education.” 

10:00 am - Another farmer, Dalrisi, tells us she lost three cows, five members of her family and part of her home in the eruption. She shows us her three surviving cows, stroking their faces and pointing out their ragged ears, burnt by burning objects that fell on them in the blast. Their hides, now healed, were covered in blisters, she says.  

11:45 am - I meet Sugi Winarsih, one of the government vets who worked with us in 2010 to treat hundreds of sick and injured cattle. That was a dangerous time, and the team narrowly missed being engulfed by a pyroclastic flow. They were warned just in time over their handheld radios and were able to get to safety with only seconds to spare. 

Despite such traumatic memories, Sugi is keen to tell me her favourite story– the day she helped our team deliver a calf in one of the evacuation camps. 

“It was the one of the most beautiful things ever to happen to me – and it happened right in the middle of the disaster,” she says smiling softly. 

She explains this new life strengthened her resolve to work with communities and the government to ensure they learn from the 2010 disaster. 

1:15 pm – On our last stop of the day, we meet Sunyoto and his beautiful black and white two-year-old cow. She makes us all smile because she’s frisky, very vocal and keeps nuzzling him for food.

Sunyoto explains that although 95% of local people depend on the cows for their livelihoods, it was witnessing their suffering and deaths that was the most heartbreaking. 

He then has a wonderful surprise for us. He tells us the cow beside him is the daughter of one of his cows that was born in an evacuation camp – the very calf Sugi delivered. I’m so delighted to see this new life we made possible. 

3:30 pm - Back at the hotel, we transcribe and translate the interviews. We’re all exhausted, but I still need to go through the photos, videos and stories of the day. Finally, at 6:30 pm, I set my equipment to recharge for tomorrow.

7:15 pm - As I eat in my room, I think about today’s stories. As a member of the only full-time, dedicated global disaster response team focusing on animal welfare, I’m so proud of our work. And I’m so grateful to you, our wonderful donors, whose support means we can be there for animals when they need us most.

To keep up-to-date with our disaster response work and everything you help us do to protect animals in disasters, visit http://animalsindisasters.typepad.com/