The continuing slowdown of Kīlauea’s lower east rift zone eruption has given many of the displaced residents hope for moving back into their homes, but for the animals trapped in kipukas (areas surrounded by lava), life is still a daily struggle because of heat, toxic gases, and lack of food & water. So, after an aerial thermography survey found a group of cats in an area isolated by static but still hot lava flows, a feline rescue mission organized by Roxy O’Neal of the Hawai‘i Island Humane Society, brought together Paradise Helicopters and Drs. Norm and Ann Goody. Cal Dorn, CEO of Paradise, donated the helicopter time and expenses, while the Goody’s volunteered their time for the effort. Dr. Norm and Dr. Ann have donated thousands of pounds of feed for the animals rescued, with the help of HAKA, the Hawaii lava flow animal rescue network, and have taken in numerous foster animals. Together, this husband and wife team, run the non-profit exotic animal sanctuary, Three Ring Ranch in Kailua Kona, and have been assisting with lava rescue efforts from the start. What an incredible effort by everyone involved! See the photos below.
Dr. Norm Goody, Roxy O’Neal, Robert Mitchell, and Dr. Ann Goody, meet on Hwy 137 to begin the feline rescue mission.
Pilot Rob Mitchell details the flight plan to everyone.
Dr. Norm, Dr. Ann, and Roxy, begin stacking the cages in a cargo net.
Dr. Ann and Roxy arrange the cages within the cargo net, as Rob gathers the tethers.
Rob discusses the landing strategy with Dr. Ann and Roxy.
Rob and Roxy review the sequence of events for the mission…
The lead line is laid out on the roadway to prevent tangling…
Rob attachs the lead line, checking all connections.
Rob tests the connections and remote hook, prior to the commencement of the mission.
Rob gives a safety brief…
Roxy and the Goody’s board the aircraft for transport to the mission zone.
Pilot Rob makes final flight preparations before starting up…
Dr. Ann Goody is ready!
With the long line detached, Rob takes off, transporting the animal rescue crew to the destination just northwest of Pohoiki.
Roxy flashes a shaka, as they transition to the eruption zone.
Rob returns to pick up the load of cages…
…and, off we go to the drop site…
…over hot lava fields we fly…
Roxy gives a thumbs up as we lower the cargo net full of cages for them to do their work.
A pass over the eruption zone gives us a view of the line of fissures from which the lava flowed.
A return flight to the rescue zone, finds Dr. Ann, Dr. Norm, and Roxy, ready to return with two cats. A number of animals seen during the survey, unfortunately had perished before we arrived on the scene. The cages are prepped for a safe transport, as Roxy, Kaai, and I fly back to the landing zone, ready to receive the load of cages and cats.
Our flight path took us over a group of homes isolated by the flows.
Broad swaths of forest were consumed by the lava flows.
Roxy offloads her gear, and Rob preps to return for the load.
Rob returns with the cages and animals…
Roxy steadies the load for a gentle touchdown…
…and Rob drops the long line, and flies back for the Goody’s.
Roxy and Kaai unpack the load…
…and, this very vocal cutie, a tri-color cat, greets me!
Roxy unpacks the load of cages.
This cat was ready for more comfortable surroundings!
Roxy loads the rescued cats into the HIHS truck.
Rob returns safely with Dr. Norm and Dr. Ann.
The group does a mission debrief.
Another animal rescue mission success! Left to right: Dr. Norm Goody, Dr. Ann Goody, Roxy O’Neal, and pilot Rob Mitchell.