Ukrainian zoos in the chaos of war

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  05. 03. 2022

There are heart-breaking reports from Ukrainian zoos.

Photo from Mykolaiv taken by the President of the Ukrainian Zoo Union Vladimir Topčij. Source: Facebook profile of Vladimir Topčij Photo from Mykolaiv taken by the President of the Ukrainian Zoo Union Vladimir Topčij. Source: Facebook profile of Vladimir Topčij

Right at the start of the Russian invasion, several shells hit the Feldman Ecopark in the Kharkiv region. Further missiles later damaged various exhibits, resulting in the animals escaping. In Kharkiv itself, zoo staff can only work for two to three hours, otherwise they are in the shelters.

The main report from Kiev was: “The war is terribly stressful for the animals, so some of them have been moved indoors and into underground galleries. The vets are monitoring their emotional state and providing sedatives if necessary.” At the same time, our Kiev colleagues have warned against misinformation, emphasizing that “zoo keepers, veterinarians, engineers and others are on site 24/7.” Here in the CR, we have had false reports that everyone had abandoned Kiev Zoo and left the animals to their fate.

We have had and continue to receive the most information from the zoo in Mykolaiv, which is headed by the president of the Ukrainian Union of Zoological Gardens Vladimir Topchiy. From his reports I gather that:

     “On February 26, in the evening, near the Nikolaev Zoo there was a battle with the participation of tanks. They drove the invaders towards Kherson with losses. Today they fed and cleaned the animals like yesterday. Wait and we will tell you how to help us, be careful as false ads of scammers may appear.”

     “Every day the situation becomes more and more tense, explosions are heard, an air raid alert is sounded. But Nikolaev Zoo works, the animals are looked after, they are fed. We will stand until the end.”

     “There's an air raid alert. Sirens. Loud explosions. But the zoo is still operational, the zoo fights. Four
     of our staff have gone to the front, two to defend the city.”

     “The zoo is working, although the conditions have become very difficult. We have a forage reserve, but the most difficult situation is with meat. We have meat for four days. Six of our employees went off to war.”


Apart from several large zoos, the Ukraine has many smaller breeding facilities at varying levels. Colleagues from the Poznan Zoo in Poland took a dozen tigers and lions from one of them located near Kiev. Despite the fact they were surrounded by Russian tanks on the way, they miraculously arrived safely in Poland.

It is these small facilities that have started to call for help, especially in the last few days. That is why a centre is being set up in Poland, where feed and various materials will be collected. From there everything will be further distributed to Ukraine via Lviv. As I write this column, we are preparing a shipment from the Czech Republic for this hub. It is being bought using the funds that come into Prague Zoo's “We Help Them Survive” collection account. On Monday we set up a Ukrainian sub-account on it, and even though no one anticipated that Ukrainian zoos would need help so soon, it is now coming in handy. The good news is that seventeen Czech and Slovak zoos have already joined our fundraiser, and that the Durrell Conservation Wildlife Trust, for instance, has supported it.

Thank you for helping us to help! You can send contributions to help Ukrainian zoos to account no. 43-6804660247/0100, VS 2022, remittance information “Ukraine”.