Ukraine: Care for the zoo animals amid war in Mykolaiv
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Many animals have been abandoned or orphaned as a result of the fighting, however Ukrainian volunteers are doing their best to get them to safety. Liliya Tymoshenko, volunteer and co-founder of the open source combat footage database Dattalion, told Express.co.uk of how volunteers are saving the day.
As the fighting rages in the south and east of the country, many are still evacuating and some animals are left behind, according to Ms Tymoshenko.
She said: “People are still evacuating and animals are still evacuating, and we have volunteers who are constantly going to the east to get animals. They are bringing them here [to Lviv] or to the centre of Ukraine near Kyiv.
“We have centres where those animals can be treated and prepared for transportation to Austria, Germany or Poland.”
She added: “So for now, with animals in Ukraine, it’s a huge problem. The war is not over.”
The journey can be gruelling. Although the drive from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where Ms Tymoshenko is based, to Poland is only around an hour and a half, the wait at the border can take hours.
Ms Tymoshenko said: “I was driving across the border all the time, maybe eight times a week, sometimes it took me six hours to go in or out of a country. Because the queues on the border were huge.”
Now, after a massive influx of animals from Ukraine into EU countries, Europe has tightened its rules on the amount that can be transported across the border.
Ms Tymoshenko said: “Not just Poland, all borders to Europe are closed now. Not completely closed but we only have the ability to transport five animals per person. At the beginning of the war, we could transport 50 animals per trip without any problems with a huge car. They would go to shelters all over Europe.”
She added: “If they get rejected at the border, they come back to the shelters, change the chip, change the passport, change the volunteers and perhaps the point of the border [crossing] and then they go again.”
Ms Tymoshenko claims that Poland, the country with the most frequently crossed border, has “nothing to worry about” as most of the pets have already been adopted via photo by families in Germany and Austria.
The conditions in the shelters while the animals wait to be transported can be terrible, though volunteers try their best to accommodate them.
Some three-room houses hold 50-60 cats, with volunteers going there to take care of the pets as best they can. Dogs are often kept outside in gardens as the summer weather permits, however as the war drags on there are fears for winter, according to Ms Tymoshenko.
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She said: “Some of them are even worse, it is easier with cats – they are more or less okay. But with dogs, especially big dogs, it’s hard. Now it’s summertime and it is easier because we have a yard, they can be outside. What it will be like closer to winter, I cannot even imagine.”
She says she is exhausted, yet proud of the work her and other volunteers are doing in Ukraine, whether that be helping animals, transporting humanitarian aid, people and even weapons.
As the war drags on, she urged the world to continue its focus on Ukraine and said volunteers needed to find ways to continue being “interested” in helping.
She said: “No one was ready and no one will be ready for this kind of event. But, now, I’m feeling strong, I’m feeling very proud. This war will change every single thing, all the further development of Ukraine. You just have to be strong for a long time.”
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