Rescue dogs

Unprecedented plan to use drones to rescue dogs trapped by lava on the Spanish island of La Palma

Island of La Palma, Spain — An unprecedented drone operation was in the works Wednesday to rescue four dogs stranded for weeks between rivers of red lava flowing from a erupting volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma.

The emaciated dogs are stranded in two empty water reservoirs in the town of Todoque, flanked by slow-moving lava flows from the Cumbre Vieja volcano which erupted on September 19.

The molten rock has so far blanketed more than 1,885 acres of land and destroyed around 2,000 buildings, although rapid evacuations have averted deaths on the island, which is part of the Canary Islands to the north- west of Africa.

Dogs stranded on ash-covered land surrounded by volcanic lava in the Todoque region
Dogs are seen on ash-covered ground surrounded by volcanic lava following an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Todoque region of the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, in this screenshot not dated from a video for distribution.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF LA PALMA/VOLCA


On its way to the Atlantic Ocean, the lava spared a few areas creating “islands” of land that remain relatively unscathed like where the dogs are.

Local animal charity Leales.org sounded the alarm after learning of the dogs’ plight in early October and arranged for two drone companies to drop food and water for the animals, which have lost weight since being trapped.

He also approached Spanish industrial drone operator Aerocameras to see if he could use one of his larger machines normally used to transport goods to pluck dogs safely.

Dogs stranded on ash-covered land surrounded by volcanic lava in the Todoque region
A dog looks up from ash-covered terrain, surrounded by volcanic lava following an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Todoque region of Spain’s Canary Island of La Palma, in this screenshot undated screenshot taken from a video document.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF LA PALMA/VOLCA


Reaching the animals on foot is impossible as it would require walking on hot lava and helicopters cannot fly in the area as ash and hot gases from the volcano could damage their rotors, the Leales spokesman said. org, Alejandro Molina.

“It’s the only way to do it,” he told AFP.

An Aerocameras team arrived on the island on Monday after receiving the green light from local authorities to carry out the rescue operation. Under Spanish law, drones are not normally allowed to transport people or animals.

Company CEO Jaime Pereira said the plan was to send a 110-pound drone equipped with a large net to trap the dogs one by one and then bring them to safety.

“We have no experience of transporting a live animal by drone, and no one else has,” he told private Telecinco television.

Dogs stranded on ash-covered land surrounded by volcanic lava in the Todoque region
A dog lies on ash-covered ground surrounded by volcanic lava following an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Todoque region of the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, in this screenshot not dated from a video for distribution.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF LA PALMA/VOLCA


The success of the mission will largely depend on how the dogs react to the drone, he added.

“The dog might react by running away, moving, jumping,” Pereira said.

“There are those who say the dog could break a bone, have a heart attack. Of course there are all kinds of risks but either you take them out or probably in a few days or weeks they won’t exist anymore. “

No date has been set for the rescue operation. Aerocameras, which performs the operation for free, organized a test drive on Wednesday.

A man introduced himself as the owners of the dogs, Molina said. If the operation is successful and the dogs have microchips that confirm he is the owner, they will be returned to him, he added.