Natalia Popova has discovered a brand new objective in life: to save lots of wild animals and pets from the devastation attributable to the battle 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 battle; 200 of them went overseas and 100 discovered a brand new dwelling in western Ukraine, which is taken into account safer. A lot of them had been wild animals that had been saved as pets in personal houses earlier than their house owners fled Russian bombing and missiles.
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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, 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 scared too, however I am going anyway, “she stated.
He usually 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 that animals are subjected to because of warfare and nobody may help them, ”Popova stated.
Most often, he is aware of nothing of 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 battle, Popova drove alone within the battle hotspots, however a pair from UA Animals not too long ago supplied to move her and assist her.
“Our document is an evacuation in 16 minutes after 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 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 subsequent morning, paying the proprietor. Subsequently, Popova created a social media web page titled “Assist the Lioness” and other people 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 dwelling because of a incapacity. Popova took care of her till her loss of life two weeks in the past.
The shelter is barely a brief cease for the animals. Popova rehabilitates them after which seeks them a brand new dwelling. She feels a particular reference to each large 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 hold every thing collectively saved her up at night time.
“However I am going to 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 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 combating in sight, Popova is aware of it’ll nonetheless be wanted.
“My mission on this battle is to save lots of wild animals,” he says.