WSPA intervention report - Argentina Floods (2007)



Intense rain in Central and Southern South America has caused flooding to occur in Argentina, particularly in Tucuman (North West) and Santa Fe Provinces (North East). WSPA has been working on (flood) risk reduction activities in Santa Fe Province since 2006 and a team of experts led by WSPA vet Dr Juan Carlos Murillo from the WSPA Costa Rica Office is now on the ground helping the authorities to protect the livestock upon whom so much of the community depend for livelihood and sustainability from suffering further from the effects of the floods.

The River Parana rises in Brazil and flows south through North East Argentina down to Buenos Aires. Where the River Parana flows through Santa Fe Province, there are many large islands that are rich in pasture and are used extensively for grazing beef cattle. Approximately 1million hectares of pasture on the islands and land flanking the river have been flooded and the Secretary of Agriculture, Santa Fe Province estimates that some 1.6 to 2million head of cattle are affected by rising waters that threaten their lives (13 March 2007); this represents 4% of Argentina's total stock of beef cattle. Water levels in the river are up by one meter and the increased volume of water flowing through makes it impossible for cattle to swim to the safety of the shore. Most of the islands are now 1 - 2 metres below water.

The Argentine Government has issued US$334,000 immediately for emergency feed and veterinary care for the livestock around Reconquista.

There is insufficient boat transport to ferry the animals to safety and the smaller producers are most at risk because they cannot afford the emergency measures. Specifically, there are 500,000 animals immediately at risk in Sante Fe Province (Santa Fe Government estimate) and more than 100,000 have been evacuated already and left in relative safety on the (high) verge of the main North - South highway. Some 200 small farmers from around Reconquista own 12,000 of these cattle and they simply cannot afford the emergency feed necessary to keep the animals alive.

The WSPA Disaster Assessment and Response Team, led by WSPA expert disaster veterinary surgeon Dr Juan Carlos Murillo, reported today (22 March 2007) that ...

"Of the 500,000 animals affected in the region, many are in a critical state. There are many corpses floating in and around the river and many of the survivors are suffering from rotting hoofs, respiratory problems, starvation and caquexia (extreme weakness). Local farmers report that some 5-10% the total livestock holding in the Province has been lost. The good news is that water levels are coming down slowly but the smaller cattle owners are struggling to afford the emergency feed necessary to keep their animals alive" ....

Humans have not suffered to the same intensity as the cattle and less than 40 families have been evacuated in Santa Fe Province.

The Federal and Provincial Governments are working extremely hard but they are struggling to cope with a situation that requires much better risk reduction and preparedness measures. Insufficient warning time, inadequate logistic planning and availability of (animal) transport - especially boats - and poor contingency plans for evacuation and sustaining animals with emergency feed are the main shortfalls. At State Government request, WSPA is to continue working on risk reduction and preparedness programmes aimed at helping to avoid a repetition of such unnecessary suffering and loss of life.



DART reports that in General Obligado, San Javier and Garay Counties in Sante Fe Province, animal welfare need is:

  • 700,000 cattle survive - rough value is US$127M; 30,000 to 50,000 dead; 100,000 in urgent need of (mainly) food.

  • 5000 horses survived - rough value is US$500K; 500 dead; 2000 in urgent need of evacuation from the islands and emergency feed.

Animal health risks include:

  • Endemic diseases: FMD, babesiosis, leptospirosis and brucellosis (Leptospirosis and brucellosis under strict observation & control by govt vets)

  • Health risk to animals on islands: respiratory and digestive disease, septic arthritis, fungal and skin infections, hoof rot.

  • Bio-safety measures: cattle baths and vaccination in-place on the roads

  • Vaccination programmes: FMD, anthrax, haemorrhagic septicaemia (80% cattle)

  • Animal identification measures: ear tagging

Feed Sources:

  • Forage feed very scarce; hay and dry food available but prices are high

  • Problems of food security: dry storage difficult

  • Natural pastures should be available as normal within 3 months

  • Water: river and pools contaminated with dead carcasses

Local NGO / WSPA MS support:

  • WSPA member society FABA anchoring and supporting WSPA field operation from firm base in Buenos Aires.

Other critical issues:

  • Strong anti euthanasia influence from local NGOs and problem of corpse disposal means prevents rapid slaughter of suffering animals in situ.

  • Animals on islands need to be evacuated but there is nowhere to put them

  • 3 x ferry boats each with capacity of 40 beasts / trip insufficient to evacuate numbers under threat. Implication is that many of these animals will die from starvation, hypothermia and exhaustion.

  • There is humane slaughter available but slaughter houses are working at full capacity and abattoir freezers are full.

  • No body disposal possible at the moment and corpses are left floating down river or grounded on islands and in shallow pools.

  • Private vets are working to help only their paying customers; public vets able to only enforce bio-safety measures.

  • WSPA is only international animal welfare organisation in the field.


WSPA is to intervene immediately to prevent 12000 cattle currently at the road side and owned by about 200 small farmers from suffering further. Specifically, WSPA Disaster Assessment and Response Team is to provide emergency feed for these 12000 animals over 2 x weeks period commencing 22 March 2007.

Santa Fe Province Government is to support this operation with transport.