Bravery of zookeepers who moved in with animals they simply couldn’t leave behind: Amazing images reveal how 50 staff have defied Russian shelling to care for 4,000 residents of sanctuary in Kyiv
- Around 50 staff, including vets and keepers, have moved into zoo to care for animals
- The Kyiv zoo is home to more than 200 species including elephants and hyenas
- Bird enclosure and unfinished aquarium have been turned into air raid shelters
While many have fled Kyiv to escape Russian shelling, some have sought sanctuary at a more unusual location – the zoo.
Around 50 staff, including vets, engineers and keepers, plus 30 family members have moved in to care for the 4,000 animals.
The zoo is home to more than 200 species including elephants, hyenas and Tony, Ukraine’s only gorilla.
While many have fled Kyiv to escape Russian shelling, some have sought sanctuary at a more unusual location – the zoo. Pictured: Zoo director Kyrylo Trantin feeds Horace, a 17-year-old male Asian elephant, who has been terrified by explosions
Among those in their care is Horace, a 17-year-old male Asian elephant, who has been so terrified by explosions that a staff member must sleep in his enclosure each night.
When he wakes, panicked by loud bangs, his new zookeeper roommate has to chat to him and feed him apples to relax him.
‘If a rocket or shell lands, they know how to calm him down,’ Kyiv Zoo director Kyrylo Trantin explained.
A bird enclosure and unfinished aquarium have been turned into air raid shelters but they won’t protect larger animals such as giraffes or elephants.
‘They have no space to hide or run,’ said Mr Trantin, 49. ‘Once they’re out of the zoo, they have fewer options than any human.’
Last week, lions, tigers and bears were evacuated from a sanctuary near Kyiv to Poznan Zoo in Poland. But staff at Kyiv Zoo say it is almost impossible to evacuate their animals, due to veterinary care and transport needed.
Ivan Rybchenko, 33, is one of the keepers who has chosen to stay, rather than join the fighting.
Staff at Kyiv Zoo say it is almost impossible to evacuate their animals, due to veterinary care and transport needed. Pictured: Alpacas at the zoo in Kyiv
‘I’m taking care of giraffes, deer and horses, he said. ‘So there’s no way for me to join territorial defence because they would simply die. I’m afraid that any of the animals in the zoo will be killed.’
Staff are already keeping some animals in indoor enclosures and underground galleries to protect them from shelling.
Zebras were moved inside permanently after loud explosions caused them to panic and run into a fence.
Elephants and other vulnerable species have been given sedatives.
Mr Trantin started preparing for a Russian invasion a week before it began, stocking up on food and materials. The zoo has enough feed for the animals for the next two weeks.
Mr Trantin started preparing for a Russian invasion a week before it began, stocking up on food and materials. The zoo has enough feed for the animals for the next two weeks
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