Our homes are meant to be our sanctuary — the one place we can feel safe, untouched by the world’s misery. But how is one to feel secure when you can hear missiles going off in the background and shelling from explosions striking against your walls round-the-clock?
This devastating situation is no mere hypothetical circumstance but a reality for the people and animals of Ukraine. The country, which hosts 35% of Europe’s biodiversity with just 6% of the continent’s landmass, might turn into a modern-day ecological tragedy if the situation continues to deteriorate.
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Moreover, for pet and wild animals in captivity, the situation appears even grimmer. While people (unfortunately!) have to migrate, or hide in safer underground places, these animals don’t even have that choice.
The pet dilemma!
Ever since the Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, thousands of people have been forced to flee. And as they prepare to leave, they face an impossible moral and emotional dilemma of abandoning their pet cats and dogs.
Some fight tooth and nail to ensure their four-legged companions accompany them as they leave their homes, like when Rishab, a software engineering student stranded in Kyiv, refused to leave the war-torn country without his pet dog Maliboo. Fortunately, Rishab and Maliboo had their happy ending and reached Dehradun safely!
But others weren’t so lucky, and had to make the hard choice of leaving their pets behind. Such a decision is never easy, but that’s the thing about war — there’s nothing easy or comforting about it.
However, the animals cannot understand why their owners leave them on the wrong side of the border as they move to other countries. And left to fend for themselves, these abandoned animals struggle to find food, shelter, and safety.
Presently, there are thousands of pet animals left behind on the streets of Ukraine. And while several animal shelters & charities like ifaw and K9Aid are doing their best to take in and accommodate as many animals as possible, the shelters are overcrowded, and the food supplies are dwindling.
If the current situation continues or worsens, the animals face death by starvation if not from the continued conflict.
It’s not just pet dogs and cats that are in danger, but some bigger cats are also in a fix. Giri Kumar Patil, a doctor based in Ukraine, and his jaguar, Yagwar, and a black panther, Sabrina, remain holed up in a bunker under his house near Donbas in south-eastern Ukraine. Kumar has been documenting his struggles while taking care of the two big cats and procuring food for them amid the war.
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Zoo animals struggle to stay alive
Even animals in Ukraine’s zoos face a similar fate. In Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine, the Feldman Ecopark zoo reported damaged facilities in recent fighting. Some animals were injured while some others were killed.
And now, the ongoing war is inching closer to the capital Kyiv’s zoo, which is located near a crucial military post and might be in the route of a Russian advance into the capital, as the zoo’s animals and zookeepers watch in horror.
To avoid the heartbreaking events that animals in the Feldman Ecopark zoo experienced, the zookeepers at Kyiv’s zoo have moved some lions and tigers to Poland with the help of a wild animal shelter that operates outside of Kyiv.
But moving bigger animals like Elephants and Giraffes is not as simple.
And so, in preparation for the worst-case scenario, the zookeepers have stocked up for the next two weeks at least. Some have begun to grow lettuce right there on the property so the animals can be fed fresh food.
And while the volunteers are trying to keep the animals as calm and comfortable as they can, Horace, the Asian elephant, is on sedatives so that he can sleep at night. The zebras are being kept inside after they panicked at the sound of shelling and ran directly into a fence. And Maya the lemur is so overwhelmed that she abandoned her newborn baby this week, almost killing him, The Washington Post reported.
Uncertainty regarding the future of Ukraine’s animals lurks, but we can only hope that the situation improves in the coming days and it gets easier for these speechless angels.
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