Natalia Popova has discovered a brand new goal in life: to avoid wasting wild animals and pets from the devastation attributable to the warfare 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 direction of its keeper.
Popova, in collaboration with the animal safety group UA Animals, has already saved greater than 300 animals from warfare; 200 of them went overseas and 100 discovered a brand new residence in western Ukraine, which is taken into account safer. A lot of them have been wild animals that have been stored as pets in personal houses earlier than their homeowners 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 corresponding to horses, donkeys, goats, rabbits, canines, cats and birds.
Animals awaiting evacuation in Poland have been rescued from hotspots such because the Kharkiv and Donetsk areas of jap Ukraine, that are topic to day by day bombing and lively 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 one needs to go there. Everyone seems to be afraid. I am scared too, however I am going anyway, “she mentioned.
He usually trembles within the automobile 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 because of warfare and nobody may help them, ”Popova mentioned.
Typically, he is aware of nothing concerning the animals he saves, neither their names, nor their age nor their homeowners. “Animals do not present up after they come to us,” she joked.
For the primary few months of the warfare, Popova drove alone within the warfare hotspots, however a pair from UA Animals not too long ago provided to move her and assist her.
“Our report is an evacuation in 16 minutes, once we saved a lion between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” mentioned 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 may very well be transported.
Popova says she has all the time 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. But it surely 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 understand how 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, grew to become a member of the household as she was unable to discover a new residence because of a incapacity. Popova took care of her till her dying two weeks in the past.
The shelter is simply a brief cease for the animals. Popova rehabilitates them after which seeks them a brand new residence. She feels a particular reference to each large cat, however she says she does not thoughts letting them go. “I like them and perceive that I haven’t got the sources to offer them with the snug 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 maintain every little thing 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 mentioned.
Popova sends all her animals to the Poznań Zoo in Poland, which helps her evacuate and discover them new houses. Some animals have already been transported to Spain, France and South Africa. Her subsequent undertaking is sending 12 lions to Poland this week.
With an finish to the preventing in sight, Popova is aware of it’s going to nonetheless be wanted. “My mission on this warfare is to avoid wasting wild animals,” she says.