Kangaroos and wallabies whose enclosures were shelled at a Ukrainian zoo are now safe thanks to the efforts of a brave driver whose video has since gone viral.
The Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv posted a video earlier this week showing the confused-looking creatures in the back of a van with straw spread out on the floor. Ukraine’s foreign ministry later shared a clip on Twitter.
“Today is a month since the beginning of the war, and we’re continuing the evacuation of the animals,” the driver says in the Facebook video, according to a translation from The Washington Post.
While the zoo and ministry each mentioned kangaroos, the video also shows wallabies in the van, Max Pulsinelli, spokesperson for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, told HuffPost. Wallabies are slightly smaller, close cousins of kangaroos.
The animals’ enclosures have been “repeatedly shelled” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the zoo said in its Facebook post. It also noted that by the time the video was posted, the marsupials had gotten to their destination and were “already safe,” though the post did not specify where they went.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has faced heavy shelling throughout the Russian invasion, and the Ecopark has not been spared. In early March, Russian bombs killed two employees of the zoo who were trying to feed the animals, the BBC reported. Numerous animals at the park have also been killed, while others, like deer and moose, have been set free into the forest by zookeepers who felt they had better chances surviving on their own.
Many of the zoo’s surviving animals have also already been successfully evacuated, including great apes, monkeys, turtles, birds, alpacas and a lion, according to NPR.
Many workers at zoos across Ukraine have chosen not to evacuate themselves to remain and care for their animal charges, who are often stressed and terrified from the sounds of shelling. Evacuating zoo animals can pose major challenges due to the size of some animals and the highly specific needs that different species have, and the logistics become even harder during a war, when normal routes become inaccessible and usually routine supplies are hard to get. Last week, a lion and wolf were evacuated from a zoo in southeast Ukraine, and had to be driven in the back of a van with no tranquilizers ― a dangerous situation for both the animals and the drivers.
Animals remaining in zoos are at risk not only from bombs, but from running out of food due to a combination of shortages and their regular visitor revenue becoming nonexistent. At least one zoo has asked people around the world to help feed its animals by buying tickets online, even though a real-life visit is clearly off the table.
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