The ongoing war in Ukraine has made a massive, devastating impact on the country’s citizens, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced from their homes.
It has also taken a major toll on the country’s animals, who have been frequently stranded in dangerous combat zones, left terrified for their lives. While some people have stayed behind in Ukraine to care for these animals, and risked their lives to evacuate them, solutions aren’t always easy.
Now, after months of conflict, one zoo is left facing the devastating possibility of having to euthanize many of their animals, after their habitats were destroyed by Russian shelling.
Feldman Ecopark is a zoo in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second most populous city that has become one of the epicenters of Russian bombing. While the zoo has been trying hard to continue doing best for its animals, a recent statement by park founder Alexander Feldman painted a dire picture.
“Ecopark is no more. Now this can be said quite definitely,” the statement began. Feldman explained that many of the zoo’s enclosures were destroyed by recent shelling and bombardment by Russian forces.
Ever since the invasion, the Ecopark has been attempting to evacuate its animals to safety. In a recent viral story, one volunteer transported a van full of kangaroos across the border. But the process is slow, and the zoo’s infrastructure has been constantly damaged by bombing.
Now, there is a serious concern that the zoo’s large predators — including lions, tigers, and bears — will soon be able to escape from the damaged enclosures, putting local villages in danger.
“We cannot allow this,” Feldman said. “There is no solution to the problem today.”
Now, park staff is working on a last-minute solution to spare as many lives as possible: trying to secure temporary housing for the large animals.
But failing that, they’ll have to go with a heartbreaking last resort: euthanizing the predators.
It would be a heartbreaking outcome for these bears and tigers, but the realities of war sometimes give you few options and force you to make a difficult call to protect lives. “It is unimaginably painful to talk about this,” Feldman said in his statement. “But the main priority now is the lives of people.”
Still, the situation is not yet hopeless: the zoo is doubling its efforts to find temporary housing solutions for all their animals.
And their plea for help has motivated a widespread outreach of support, according to a Facebook post from the zoo: “Transport is already coming to us, the necessary cages are coming, people are coming who are not afraid to take animals out of the shelled zone, our pets are ready to receive in many places. Of course, everything is still very complicated and the process is only gaining momentum.”
“Despite the fact that there were shelling again, four animals were evacuated – two lions, a jaguar and a panther.”
The situation is still ongoing. Zoo staff and volunteers are working hard to get the animals to safety, all under the constant threat of more attacks, to save as many lives as possible.
In another statement, the zoo explained that getting the bigger predator animals out of the “grey zone” was a very difficult undertaking, and could “attract the attention of the enemy,” but they were making every effort to do so safely.
“We emphasize that the euthanasia of animals is an extreme measure, which, we very much hope, [we] will not come to,” they wrote.
“Today, efforts to save our animals will not only continue, but will hopefully double and triple,” the Ecopark wrote on Facebook. “Much depends on the situation in the Ecopark area, but we believe in the best and are waiting for positive news!”
Our hearts go out to all the people and animals struggling in Ukraine during this difficult time. 🇺🇦
We hope all these big cats are able to be evacuated from the zoo before it’s too late. Please share this story to send positive thoughts to this zoo.