May 12, 2022

Employees of a Ukrainian zoo who stayed behind to take care of animals found slaughtered

Two zoo workers in Ukraine who stayed at the facility to help care for the animals – despite Russia’s military assault on the area – were found dead.

Feldman EcoPark, located near the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, suffered severe damage to cages and other animal enclosures following the Russian bombardment following the February 24 invasion. The destruction also forced the few remaining staff to issue desperate pleas for volunteers to help evacuate large predators, such as lions, tigers and bears, from the facility.

The two employees had been missing since early March, zoo officials said in an update shared on April 19. Their bodies have just been found with gunshot wounds, barricaded in a room in the establishment.

“When the war started, they stayed in the Ecopark and helped feed the animals. We arrived at the Ecopark on March 7 and did not find them there,” the update reads. zoo, according to an English translation.

Zoo officials said they had been searching for the missing employees “for a long time” and even asked for help from area law enforcement officers.

“Until the end, we hoped that nothing irretrievable had happened, and they were able to survive. But yesterday, we received confirmation that their bodies had been found,” the update adds. “Our guys were shot by the enemies, and their bodies were barricaded in the back room.”

The zoo called the two employees “wonderful and courageous people”, offering its condolences to their families and friends.

“We believe that the Inhumans who committed this will be permanently punished,” the statement concluded.

Screen grabs from a video posted by Feldman Ecopark on April 8, 2022 show damaged infrastructure inside the park. Credit: Feldman Ecopark via Storyful

Feldman EcoPark made headlines earlier this month when it warned it could be forced to euthanize some larger animals, such as tigers and lions, if it fails to relocate them . The zoo called it an “extreme measure, which we very much hope will not happen”. next to a video showing the destruction at the zoo.

Fearing ongoing Russian bombing and damaged enclosures that could allow dangerous animals to escape into the nearby area, workers and volunteers have been working actively to evacuate all resident animals from the zoo and are seeking donations as part of the effort.

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An evacuated white lion is seen in the enclosure of the zoo in Odessa, Ukraine, April 14, 2022. Two white lions arrived at the Odessa zoo on the night of April 13 from the Ecopark destroyed by shelling in Kharkov. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Im

The Ecopark facility continued its updates on Wednesday, share workers video helping to evacuate hyenas, wolves and other zoo animals.

“A drone flying over the territory of the Ecopark means danger. This is often followed by shelling. Russian troops are constantly monitoring the territory,” the zoo wrote. “It seems like they should understand that evacuating wolves is a purely peaceful process. But our rescuers have learned over and over that their logic (if it exists, of course) is completely different.”

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, lies less than 30 miles south of the Russian border and has come under heavy attack as the Russian army continues its assault on towns and villages in the country’s east , in what officials described as a “new phase of war.” Associated Press Journalists reported this week that at least four people were killed and three injured in an attack on a residential area of ​​the city.

If successful, the Russian offensive in so-called Donbass would essentially cut Ukraine in half and give President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory after Moscow’s forces failed to storm the capital. kyiv, and heavier than expected losses nearly two months into the war.

Russia also said on Wednesday it had hit areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of Donbass with missiles. Multiple explosions were heard early Wednesday in the southern city of Mykolaiv, the regional governor said. A hospital was reportedly bombed earlier in the nearby town of Bashtanka.

In Mariupol, the now devastated port city in Donbass, Ukrainian troops said the Russian army dropped heavy bombs to flatten what was left of a sprawling steel factory and hit a hospital where hundreds of people were staying.

RELATED: Ukrainian war refugees: UN says more than 5 million have fled as Russian onslaught intensifies

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.