Natalia Popova has discovered a brand new objective in life: to save lots of wild animals and pets from the devastation attributable to the struggle in Ukraine.
“They’re my life,” says the 50-year-old, stroking a light-haired lioness like a kitten. From inside an enclosure, the animal rejoices within the consideration, mendacity on its again and stretching its paws in the direction of its keeper.
Popova, in collaboration with the animal safety group UA Animals, has already saved greater than 300 animals from struggle; 200 of them went overseas and 100 discovered a brand new house in western Ukraine, which is taken into account safer. Lots of them have been wild animals that have been stored as pets in personal properties earlier than their house owners fled Russian bombing and missiles.
Popova’s shelter within the village of Chubynske within the Kiev area now homes 133 animals. It’s a massive menagerie, which incorporates 13 lions, a leopard, a tiger, three deer, wolves, foxes, raccoons and roe deer, in addition to home animals corresponding to horses, donkeys, goats, rabbits, canine, cats and birds.
Animals awaiting evacuation in Poland have been rescued from hotspots such because the Kharkiv and Donetsk areas of japanese Ukraine, that are topic to day by day bombing and energetic preventing. Ukrainian troopers who let Popova know when animals on the entrance line need assistance joke that she has many lives, like a cat.
“No person desires to go there. Everyone seems to be afraid. I am scared too, however I am going anyway, “she stated.
He typically trembles within the automotive as he goes to rescue one other wild animal.
“I am very sorry for them. I can think about the stress that animals are subjected to resulting from warfare and nobody can assist them, ”Popova stated.
Generally, he is aware of nothing in regards to the animals he saves, neither their names, nor their age nor their house owners.
“Animals do not present up once they come to us,” he joked.
For the primary few months of the struggle, Popova drove alone within the struggle hotspots, however a pair from UA Animals not too long ago supplied to move her and assist her.
“Our report is an evacuation in 16 minutes, once we saved a lion between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” stated Popova. Skilled economist with no formal veterinary expertise, she administered anesthesia to the lion as a result of the animal needed to be asleep earlier than it could possibly be transported.
Popova says she has at all times been very keen on animals. In kindergarten she constructed worm homes and talked to birds. In 1999 you opened the primary personal horse membership in Ukraine. Nevertheless it was solely 4 years in the past that she saved her first lion.
An anti-slaughter group approached her with a plea for assist in saving a lion with a damaged backbone. She did not know the way she may assist her as a result of her expertise of her was in horses. However when she noticed a photograph of the massive cat, she Popova could not resist.
He constructed an enclosure and took within the lion the subsequent morning, paying the proprietor. Subsequently, Popova created a social media web page titled “Assist the Lioness” and folks began writing asking for assist in saving different wildlife.
Yana, the primary lioness she rescued, grew to become a member of the household as she was unable to discover a new house resulting from a incapacity. Popova took care of her till her loss of life two weeks in the past.
The shelter is just a brief cease for the animals. Popova rehabilitates them after which seeks them a brand new house. She feels a particular reference to each huge cat, however she says she does not thoughts letting them go.
“I like them and perceive that I haven’t got the assets to offer them with the comfy life they deserve,” says Popova.
At first, he financed the shelter along with his personal funds from the horse enterprise. However since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the horse enterprise hasn’t been worthwhile. With greater than $ 14,000 a month wanted to maintain the animals wholesome and fed, she took out loans and noticed her debt develop to $ 200,000.
She will get some cash from UA Animals and donations, however worries about the best way to hold the whole lot collectively stored her up at evening.
“However I will nonetheless borrow cash, go to sizzling spots and save the animals. I can not say no to them, “she stated.
Popova sends all her animals to the Poznań Zoo in Poland, which helps her evacuate and discover them new properties. Some animals have already been transported to Spain, France and South Africa. Her subsequent venture is sending 12 lions to Poland this week.
With an finish to the preventing in sight, Popova is aware of it can nonetheless be wanted.
“My mission on this struggle is to save lots of wild animals,” he says.