Thousands Of Zoo Animals Are In Danger As Putin Continues Assault On Ukraine

With no place to run, no place to hide, and little understanding of why bombs keep falling all around them, many animals left in Ukraine are in desperate need of shelter and solace.

More than 2.5 million refugees have already fled Ukraine. Many who owned pets brought them along, either in makeshift cages or directly in their arms, large animals like those found in zoos need more help, however.

Some animals have been rescued. The Poznan Zoo in Poland has offered to host bears from the Save Wild bear sanctuary until the war ends, while six lions, six tigers, two caracals, and an African wild dog have also been taken in by Polish zoos. Others have been transferred into Belgium.

Those cases may be the lucky few, however.

Animals at zoos in Ukraine are in great danger.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Oleksiі Samsonov
Animals at zoos in Ukraine are in great danger from Russia’s onslaught.

As ZME Science reports, an Asian elephant held in Kyiv needed sedatives to help calm her down and now requires round-the-clock attention after blasts from the bombs frightened her. According to the Washington Post, lemur mothers have been so traumatized by the shelling that they abandoned their newborns.

As Russian forces led by Vladimir Putin continue to bear down on Ukraine, supplies are running thin in Ukrainian zoos and animal sanctuaries, and thousands of wild animals are trapped within the country, the Independent reports. Some zookeepers are buying food for the animals at supermarkets with their own money, and putting themselves in great danger to make the trip.

Large animals like elephants cannot easily be transported to safety.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Oleksiі Samsonov
Large animals like elephants cannot easily be transported to safety.

A 48-year-old driver and a 27-year-old engineer who had answered a call for help feeding animals at the Ecopark zoo were still there when the bombing started and couldn’t make it back to shelter in time.

Oleksandr Feldman, owner of the Ecopark, announced the tragedy on Facebook, just four days after posting a plea for help feeding animals.

“Yesterday, there was a tragedy in our Ecopark. Two people who managed to get into the park’s territory to feed the animals (it is needed at least once every three days) were killed. They died under mortar and machine gun fire,” Feldman said.

Some of Ukraine's bears have been transported to Poland.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Oleksiі Samsonov
Some of Ukraine’s animals have been transported to Poland.

“But we don’t give up. We are trying to find ‘windows’ in the shelling in order to get into the territory of the Ecopark and feed the animals,” a worker at the zoo told the BBC. “We’re trying to take out everyone we can. Thanks to all our many friends who help physically, morally, financially. For us it is very important. We are fighting and will continue to fight for every life.”

There are yet an estimated 5,000 animals left in the zoo, including turtles, parrots, capybara, kangaroos, and wolves. Meanwhile, civilian areas including hospitals and schools are being targeted more often by the Russians, Sky News reports.

Survival is getting harder for humans and animals with every passing day.

Some zookeepers have stayed behind to care for animals.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Oleksiі Samsonov
Some zookeepers have stayed behind to care for animals.

“It’s almost impossible to evacuate animals, because it’s impossible to provide appropriate veterinary service and transportation,” Kyiv Zoo director Kyrylo Trantin told Euronews.

Trantin said some keepers have been staying with the animals overnight, even using their zoos as a makeshift shelter.

“My mother, who is elderly, my dog and my cat have all moved into my office here,” he told the Daily Mail.

At dozens of other zoos in Ukraine, the outlook is much worse. Mariupol has been without electricity or running water for over a week, and Russian bombs are still raining down on residential areas in Eastern Ukraine, CNN reports.

At least 24 dogs were killed by bombs in Horlivka Shelter for stray dogs, and many more dogs and cats were killed in the PIF center, in Donetsk, both by bombs and being crushed in the rubble. More than 450 dogs were also left without food and water for over a week at the municipal animal shelter In the Borodianka area around Kyiv, ZME Science reports. It’s possible that those dogs could all be dead, as well.

In all of Ukraine's zoos, supplies are running thin.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Oleksiі Samsonov
In all of Ukraine’s zoos, supplies are running thin.

Without regular care and food, many more animals will die. Thanks to the help of some brave Ukrainians who are putting themselves at risk to protect these animals, many more will survive.

“I’m taking care of giraffes, deer and horses,” zookeeper Ivan Rybchenkop told the Daily Mail. “So there’s no way for me to join territorial defense because they would simply die. I’m afraid that any of the animals in the zoo will be killed.”

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