Kharkiv zoo prepares to kill lions and tigers in case Russian shelling lets them loose in city

The owner of a zoo in the war-torn Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has taken a heartbreaking decision to put down all the large animals including tigers and lions.

Although several animals at the Feldman Ecopark survived the incessant bombing by the Russian forces for over five weeks, the facility was devastated leading to risks of the predators venturing in the city.

He says the animals who survived can escape at any time, and must be put down, though he holds out hope some adolescent big cats may be saved and transported elsewhere.

“Feldman Ecopark doesn’t exist anymore. The enclosures have been destroyed, the entire infrastructure has been destroyed,” the zoo’s owner Alexander Feldman said in a video, which was posted on Facebook.

He that warned the enclosures were badly damaged which could lead to animals, including big cats, entering the streets. Mr Feldman said it was a “miracle” that the tigers and lions were still alive despite their cages being destroyed.

“By tonight we will decide whether to put them all down or transport them somewhere else… Maybe we will save baby jaguars, baby panthers, but all adult animals will probably be euthanised,” he said.

The zoo’s team was working in the Chutovo region to find a way to save the animals, the owner said. “Failing that, the only option left to us is to put the predators to sleep. It is unimaginably painful to talk about this, but the main priority now is the lives of people,” the caption of the video read.

Three members of the staff were reportedly killed and dozens more were wounded while trying to feed the animals.

The staff were able to visit the chimpanzees and orangutans on 4 March for the first since the war began. According to reports, the monkeys had been sheltered by the Kharkov Zoo.

Earlier on Tuesday, a man rescued Ukraine’s only family of tapirs and eight kangaroos from the Felman Ecopark, which was on fire because of Russian shelling.

Meanwhile, more than a month after Russia’s unprovoked invasion, the United States and its allies are preparing to impose new sanctions on Moscow over civilian killings in Bucha.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here.

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