CHUBYNSKE, Ukraine – Natalia Popova has discovered a brand new goal in life: to avoid wasting wild animals and pets from the devastation wreaked by 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 residence in western Ukraine, which is taken into account safer. Lots of them had been wild animals that had been stored as pets in non-public 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 giant menagerie, which incorporates 13 lions, a leopard, a tiger, three deer, wolves, foxes, raccoons and roe deer, in addition to home animals reminiscent of horses, donkeys, goats, rabbits, canines, cats and birds.
Animals awaiting evacuation in Poland had been rescued from hotspots such because the Kharkiv and Donetsk areas of jap Ukraine, that are topic to day by day bombing and energetic combating. Ukrainian troopers who let Popova know when animals on the entrance line need assistance joke that she has many lives, like a cat.
“No one desires to go there. Everyone seems to be afraid. I am afraid too, however I’m going anyway,” he stated.
He typically trembles within the automobile as he goes to rescue one other wild animal.
“I’m very sorry for them. I can think about the stress the animals are subjected to because of the struggle and nobody may also help them,” stated Popova.
Most often, 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 just lately provided to move her and assist her.
“Our document is an evacuation in 16 minutes, once we saved a lion between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” stated Popova. Educated 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 might 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 non-public horse membership in Ukraine. However 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 following 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, turned a member of the household as she was unable to discover a new residence as a result of a incapacity. Popova took care of her till her demise 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 residence. She feels a particular reference to each massive cat, however she says she does not thoughts letting them go.
“I really like them and perceive that I haven’t got the assets to supply them with the comfy life they deserve,” says Popova.
At first, he financed the shelter together 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 preserve all the pieces collectively stored her up at night time.
“However I will nonetheless borrow cash, go to the new spots and save the animals. I am unable to inform them no,” he 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 challenge is sending 12 lions to Poland this week.
With an finish to the combating in sight, Popova is aware of it is going to nonetheless be wanted.
“My mission on this struggle is to avoid wasting wild animals,” he says.
Observe all AP tales in regards to the struggle in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.