Wristwatch

Volunteers save animals in Ukraine – photo report | Ukraine

MMore than 5 million people have fled Ukraine and millions more have been displaced since the start of the Russian invasion. But volunteers are also coordinating daily rescue missions to save thousands of the country’s non-human people as well – pets, farm animals and zoo animals.

Organizations such as the Polish Centaur Foundation, the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation or the Lviv Animal Shelter try every day to save animals from war.

A view of the destroyed town of Borodianka, northwest of kyiv

They have a large and valuable army of volunteers, as well as funding through online crowdfunding and private donations.

It is impossible to determine how many animals have been moved or left the country since the beginning of the war. What is certain is that there are many daily departures to EU countries by public transport, vans, trucks and passenger cars.

Patrick, a 31-year-old Dane, is a volunteer driver at the Centaurus Foundation.  We travel in a white van loaded with food and animal cages.  He came to Ukraine as a volunteer to fight alongside the Ukrainian army.  He has a military background but lacks battlefield experience, so he was rejected.  But he didn't want to go home and has been helping animals and people between Ukraine and Poland for about a month.
  • Patrick, a Centaurus Foundation driver, came to Ukraine as a volunteer to fight alongside the Ukrainian army but was rejected. He didn’t want to go home and has been helping animals and people between Ukraine and Poland for about a month.

A dog pokes out its muzzle and stretches its paw in an attempt to get people's attention at a makeshift shelter at the Kyiv Hippodrome
A volunteer carries a dog to the makeshift shelter at the Kyiv Hippodrome

I joined a convoy led by the Polish Centaurus Foundation of seven vehicles, made up of people of four different nationalities. He was delivering food and veterinary surgical supplies to kyiv. The mission was to extract the surviving dogs from a shelter in Borodianka, a town northeast of kyiv that suffered heavy shelling.

A young lion from the Kharkiv Ecopark, rescued from euthanasia, is moved to its new home in a wildlife sanctuary
  • A young lion from Kharkiv Ecopark, rescued from euthanasia, is moved to its new home in a wildlife sanctuary.

Nataliya Popova poses for a portrait at the wildlife sanctuary
Nataliya Popova and her partner look delighted to unload food and veterinary medicine for the wildlife center she runs on the outskirts of Kyiv
  • UAnimals’ Nataliya Popova and her partner look happy as they unload food and veterinary medicine for the wildlife center.

Another animal organization that works tirelessly in rescuing, caring for and extracting animals is UAnimals, a Ukrainian organization that since the start of the war has been coordinating volunteers. A volunteer, Nataliya Popova, after seeing how animals in zoos and reserves were left to starve or were euthanized, turned her equine center on the outskirts of kyiv into a wildlife sanctuary. More than 100 animals from there have been evacuated to zoos and reserves in Romania or Poland since the start of the war. Among them were seven bears, four tigers and three lions from the bombed Ecopark in Kharkiv.

A wild deer at the makeshift wildlife sanctuary near kyiv.
A monkey caught in a circus is seen at the Lviv Animal Sanctuary.

Many other animals were found roaming the various villages recaptured from the invading forces; some were starving, eating whatever they could find, others were injured or frightened and confused by the sound of explosions. Many were hiding in their homes, where there was no one left.

Ken Dillo, a former US Marines paramedic, provides first aid to Zenia, a badly burned three-year-old cat who has just been reunited with her owner, Nataliya, after more than a month surviving alone during the Russian war.  invading the village.
  • Zenia, a three-year-old cat whose owner had to flee the village of Andriivka, near Bucha. She survived burns and starvation. Ken Dillo, a former US Marines paramedic, provided first aid to Zenia, who was later reunited with her human family.

To the west, the city of Lviv has become a center for animal rescue and evacuation operations, mainly because it is the closest city to the border with Poland.

A dog in a cage rests at the animal sanctuary in Lviv

Located far from the front line, Lviv has become a place of safety for people displaced by the conflict. And the same goes for animals, like the bears at the White Rock sanctuary in kyiv, where there was a reserve for them, many taken from circuses, which have now been moved to a shelter near Lviv. Or the dogs, cats and wild animals who stop for a few days at the animal shelter in Lviv, where they are taken care of by volunteers who take care of them, feed them, walk them and give them l affection, while in their offices the necessary bureaucracy measures are taken for their transfer out of the country.