A zoo in the south of Ukraine has asked for international support to keep its animals alive after most of its staff were either evacuated or joined the military to fight Russian invaders.
Mykolaiv Zoo is operating in “wartime mode,” its director, Volodymyr Topchyi, said in a Facebook post earlier this month.
“Every day we go to work, feed and clean the animals despite the howl of the air raid siren,” he wrote. “Seven of our employees went to the front to fight the invaders.”
Topchyi asked people to consider purchasing e-tickets to the zoo to financially support it during the war. The park is home to polar bears, hippos, lions, wolves, elephants, zebras, primates and many other animals, according to its website.
Mykolaiv has faced fierce shelling from Russian forces as they seek to gain control over the strategic maritime city. Over the weekend, more than 40 marines were killed after Russian forces bombed a military barracks in the city.
Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs said the zoo had been bombed; however, its director decided to stay to help the stressed animals.
Topchyi shared several images on Facebook that appeared to show shells on the zoo premises.
“Near the tiger and polar bear enclosures this morning. No animals were hurt,” he wrote in a March 7 post, according to a translation.
In a video interview last week with Voice of America, Topchyi said tickets to the zoo were sold out a month in advance and that he had been moved by the donations from around the world, per a translated summary of the conversation.
On Thursday, the zoo said it had also received a large donation of food and medical supplies from various zoos across Europe. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria said it was providing some financial aid to the zoo along with several others in Ukraine.
Other zoos in the country have also asked for help. Park XII Months zoo, located near Kyiv, recently asked for a green corridor to evacuate the animals or for volunteers to bring food to those that are difficult to transport.
At the Kyiv Zoo, staff members have moved onto the premises with their families, both to take shelter and to care for the animals, many of which have been traumatized by the bombings and air raid sirens, The Washington Post reported earlier this month.