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The Man Who Cares For The Dogs Of Fukushima

Finding beauty after a devastating natural disaster

Keigo Sakamoto holding one of his dogs washingtonpost.com

Keigo Sakamoto is the only man in Fukushima.

He lives almost completely isolated from other human settlements, although he is not alone. He takes care of more than 500 animals in the Fukushima evacuation zone, which consists of an area up to 45 km from the Daiichi nuclear power plant, covering eleven towns.



On March 2011, a tsunami triggered a chain of explosions of the plant’s reactors, and the situation worsened as days went by, turning Fukushima into a green oasis in no-man’s-land. Consequently, the Japanese government ordered a temporary evacuation of the towns neighboring the nuclear plant.

Japan towns, villages, and cities around the Daiichi nuclear plant. The 20km and 30km areas had evacuation and sheltering orders, respectively. Later, more evacuation orders were given beyond 20km in areas northwest of the site. This affected portions of the administrative districts highlighted in yellow.

wikipedia.org

Many residents had to leave their pets and livestock behind thinking that they could come back to their old lives in a matter of days. However, as the nuclear meltdowns continued to occur, the evacuation zone was extended and hundreds of thousands residents were evacuated, even to this day.

Many refused to leave their beloved pets behind and others kept them inside their cars in the parking lots near the temporary shelters in Fukushima since, at the beginning, only Niigata shelters accepted people and their pets.

Mieko Yoshida, a teacher who lost some of her cats in the event, organized a campaign to force the government to allow people to rescue or feed their pets or livestock abandoned in the exclusion zone. Her video “Cry From Fukushima” was released during her campaign.

Meanwhile, a hero named Keigo Sakamoto refused to leave the exclusion zone, becoming and continuing to be the only man in Fukushima. This incredibly brave man was a farmer in the town of Naraha in the Futaba district where previously 8,000 people lived. He has endured radioactive pollution levels unfit for human and animal life, namely at the beginning of the disaster. Although many of his animals died from starvation, the survivors reproduced.

For his part, Keigo survived in order to take care of them. He travels regularly to the closest town to get supplies for himself and visit a pet store that provides him with a portion of the food that he needs to feed his animals.

His marvelous work is now supported by numerous animal welfare associations around the world as well as compassionate individuals. All of them contributed to rescuing the more than 1,500 dogs and cats during the first six months after the disaster. Today, they continue to help and care for the affected animals by supporting and working together with local shelters.

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