Ukrainian citizen Lionel de Lange is waging a battle for the animals of Ukraine -- and things aren't looking so good, since funding from the government is fast running out. His first target -- the 114-year-old Nikolaev Zoo in the southern port city of Mykolayiv, which houses 5,735 animals.
"At the Nikolaev Zoo, these thousands of animals are on the brink," de Lange told Environmental News Service. "There is only enough food left for the carnivores to eat today and tomorrow. The herbivores have enough to last one more week. Medical supplies have run out. These animals need our help right now."
At a loss, de Lange contacted the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO) of California, which quickly launched a fundraising campaign to supply food for the starving animals. De Lange is now head of the Ukrainian Chapter of LAEO. The zoo is sustaining itself -- for now.
"Just in the past couple of days since we began getting the word out to our members and supporters, people are beginning to step up and donate to ensure none of these animals unnecessarily suffer or perish," said LAEO's International President Barbara Wiseman. "We have to cover their immediate needs and get some breathing room here so that we can then help zoo facilities implement self-sustaining longer-term solutions."
When the weather gets warmer at the end of April, the zoo will be able to charge admission fees and support the cost of food and medication for the animals. But this isn't Ukraine's only zoo in trouble -- the private zoo on the grounds of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych's estate, which houses 2,000 animals is suffering as well, with looters stealing food and animals, according to a release.
"There are a few volunteers there who are going door-to-door in Kiev begging for food for the animals. But the scene is desperate and we are working to raise funds to get through the immediate crisis and then will work with them to figure out a long-term solution," says Wiseman, noting that a plan should be put in place for future situations like this, to care for zoo animals during times of political turmoil. "This situation underscores the reasons why we submitted to both the UN and the International Criminal Court our proposed Wildlife in War Zones Resolution."
You can learn more about efforts to help Ukraine's zoo animals and donate to give them food and support at LAEO's website.