A small island that counts just 100 people as inhabitants, but is home to many more stray cats has reportedly survived the destruction from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last Friday, according to a group that is trying to save animals after the disaster.
"Just to give everyone an update on Tashirojima, the cat island. The people and cats are safe but short of food," the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support group posted in a Facebook message on Monday. "A volunteer looked into transporting food by boat, but there is too much debris in the water. A helicopter is the only way. The army will probably get a helicopter ready soon so we are looking into the possibility of asking them to take cat food too."
The fishing town's residents built a shrine to the numerous cats in their midst. Tashirojima--known familiarly as "Cat Island"--has become a tourist attraction for animal lovers. "The cats here have always been something like a lucky charm for us who bring good catch. We enshrine them because they are important to us," local fisherman Tsuneo Endo said in a 2009 CCTV article. Feeding the strays is thought to bring good fortune.
This Thai News report (untranslated, unfortunately) shows video footage of the cats overruning the island:
Three animal groups have joined forces to form the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue effort; the coalition aims to promote the rescue and adoption of lost and stray animals, and to ensure that will not be euthanized. The groups are HEART-Tokushima, Animal Friends Niigata and Japan Cat Network. WorldVets is partnering with those groups to help in their rescue mission. Some of the relief workers told CNN that foreigners fleeing the country have left behind their pets. Other dogs, especially in rural areas, were tied up when they were left behind and may now have no way to get food. (After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, 250,000 pets were left stranded, PBS estimates.)
On its Facebook page, the group says it is trying to confirm that the two dogs in this touching video have been rescued.
Animals are also doing some rescuing of their own. Six labradors were deployed from California to help Japanese authorities on search-and-rescue missions in the hardest-hit areas in Northeast Japan, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.