They Belong in Nature
It is heartbreaking to see the war in Ukraine. Every day, countless innocent people are killed and 4.3 million have fled the country. We are shocked by the human tragedy unfolding and deeply disturbed by the suffering that this causes animals.
Many times, Animals are the forgotten Victims in Conflicts and wars
Particularly, the zoo animals of Ukraine are caught up in a terrible conflict without their knowledge. Some zoos have stated that they will have euthanize many of their animals. This has prompted a dismaying outcry and is rightly so.
By design, zoo animals are kept in captivity. For the benefit of paying tourists, they are forced to live in enclosures or taken from their natural habitat. It can lead to disaster when the enclosures they live in are not safe and their income is reduced, as we saw in Ukraine.
While the Geneva Conventions emphasize humanitarian rights during war, animals’ rights are not considered. Zoos, which were originally set up for entertainment, can become battlefields in conflicts. Animals are held captive and are unable to flee, yet they are regularly attacked. Both animals and civilians both deserve protection.
Many animals have been injured or killed in attacks. It is extremely dangerous for both humans and animals to escape, especially in urban areas. Animals can also become stressed and traumatized by the loud noises and sights from war. This can be seen at Kyiv Zoo where animals are given sedatives and sometimes moved underground so their keepers are there for comfort
This situation isn’t uncommon and it’s not only difficult during wars. Similar circumstances were recently seen with the covid pandemic. The crisis in Thailand caused a severe decline in international tourism and left many attractions empty. The closure of tourist camps that housed captive elephants was followed by the layoffs of thousands of workers. Owners of the country’s more than 2,000 captive elephants were left in an unstable situation, unable to provide basic care such as food and healthcare.
Animals are dependent upon humans when taken from their natural habitat. Capturing complex, intelligent, and endangered wild animals in captivity is cruel. It also puts them at the mercy external crises such as economic downturns or pandemics.
We were able to help in Thailand as we had done in the past. In times of emergency, we provided assistance to many elephants. This is unfortunately a lot more complicated when it comes to war.
First, in war-stricken areas there are shortages and supply problems. Particularly big cats and carnivores, they require large amounts of meat that is difficult to find.
It can also be difficult to reach the premises. It’s also extremely dangerous. This is compounded by the fact there are no safe routes. The risk of serious illness and even death can be caused by transporting stressed animals through conflict zones. Mobile cages are another option for special transport. We see zoos being shelled, as they are located right in the firing line. People who come in to help animals or provide supplies can also be at risk.
The third challenge is finding safe spaces for so many animals, especially when there are hundreds of them. For example, the Mykolaiv Zoo, which is located in an area where fighting can occur, houses 4,000 wild animals from 200 species. Wild animals are complex creatures that require long-term care. This is no easy task and a costly commitment. These are only a few of the many factors you should consider. They are not an exhaustive list
Masha, a former circus bear from Ukraine, was recently rescued by us. She was taken to AMP, our partner sanctuary in Romania after a life of cruelty. Although it was difficult to rescue her, she was able to make it to the sanctuary. It was an amazing sight to see her enjoying her new freedom. Tragically, her long-awaited retirement was cut short when she suffered a stroke just three weeks after arriving. Although it could have been due to her age or poor health, we cannot rule out the stress that comes with such a difficult and perilous journey. We are grateful she received the best care in her final weeks. Masha died surrounded by nature as if it was the wild. Behind the scenes we are looking into ways to rescue other animals – there is no quick fix in such volatile situations. Masha’s sad story shows how moving animals can present challenges.