- A zoo in Kharkiv, Ukraine, says it may have to put down some of its large predators if their enclosures are breached.
- Feldman Ecopark is asking for funds, transport, and manpower to help evacuate the animals.
- The zoo warned that the evacuation effort might attract attention from Russian forces.
A zoo in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv says it may have to put down its big cats, bears, and other large animals after their enclosures were almost destroyed by Russian bombardment.
Feldman Ecopark issued a statement from its founder on Tuesday saying that the park was looking for ways to temporarily house the animals, failing which its “only option” would be to euthanize them.
“Ecopark is no more. Now this can be said quite definitely,” said founder Oleksandr Feldman. “Yesterday and today [the zoo] was again subjected to massive shelling and bombardment. Infrastructure destroyed, enclosures destroyed.”
He said the enclosures are still “miraculously” retaining their integrity but would likely be compromised by another round of shelling. The park fears that its predatory animals — including lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, and bears — may escape their enclosures and enter Kharkiv city or nearby villages.
“It is unimaginably painful to talk about this, but the main priority now is the lives of people,” Feldman said.
Feldman Ecopark later posted a video on its Facebook page showing the damage done to some enclosures. “As you can see, a little more, and lions could be outside the enclosure,” the post’s caption read.
In the post, the zoo again called for aid in evacuating its predators, saying that “the euthanization of animals is the extreme measure that we hope [we] will not reach.”
However, moving big cats and bears is an operation that requires “special transport” and “a large number of people,” Feldman Ecopark warned. The zoo also noted “a high percentage of probability” that the movements would draw the attention of Russian forces, who may start shelling the area again.
There may still be some hope for the zoo’s beasts: In a separate update, the park said it received responses from Ukrainians across the country who offered modes of transport and cages. The zoo said it has since begun evacuating two lions, a jaguar, and a panther.
“Transport is already coming to us, necessary cages are coming, people who are not afraid to take animals out of the shooting zone, are ready to accept our pets in many places,” the park’s statement read.
“Of course, everything is still very difficult and the process is only gaining momentum,” it added, saying it would need further help with logistics, animal food, finances, and manpower.
The donation page for Feldman Ecopark can be found here.