As happened with many companion animals of the civilian population, some captive wild animals in Ukraine, also victims of the war caused by the Russian invasion, are being evacuated away from dangerous areas, and some have been moved overseas.

On 7th March 2022,  after a 24-hour trip across half of the country, seven bears arrived safe and sound at a sanctuary in Domazhyr, in western Ukraine. Two females, one male, and two cubs were moved from White Rock Shelter in the Kyiv region to FOUR PAWS Bear Sanctuary in Domazhyr

Poland zoos have been offering assistance as they have the facilities to temporary care for some of the wild animals. On 1st March 2022, staff from Zoo Poznań, Poland, said to Newsweek: “We are waiting on the Polish-Ukrainian border for the arrival of a transport of animals evacuated from the Save Wild Fund animal sanctuary near Kyiv … We cannot enter the territory of Ukraine, we are waiting for the arrival of transport to the border.” The convoy with the animals finally arrived at the border safely. The animals were unloaded at the zoo and have been in recovery since.

Staff from Kyiv Zoo said military actions are making the animals suffer. A spokesperson said: “The war is causing terrible stress for the animals, so some of them have been moved to indoor enclosures and underground galleries. Veterinarians monitor their emotional state and, if necessary, provide a sedative.” This zoo keeps a gorilla captive in solitary confinement, as there are no other gorillas in the country to accompany him. Now, in addition to a miserable life in captivity, he may have to endure the sounds and horrors of war too. 

The current situation shows us how zoos are not the safe haven for wildlife as their PR machines want people to believe. Any human crisis, such as economic hardship, pollution, pandemics, and arm conflicts, also affect the animals confined in them. These “human problems” are added to the animals’ ordeals of having to endure a life of stress and misery for being kept against their will where they don’t belong. This is why vegans don’t support zoos, because although sometimes some may help to home animals from worse captive situations (circuses, being kept in backyards as “pets”, vivisection labs, tourist attractions, etc.), at the end of the day they still exploit them for profit and don’t give them the care genuine animals sanctuaries can provide. Perhaps the current events may lead to some of the animals that were moved from zoo to zoo ending up in a better life at genuine animal sanctuaries.    

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.