Animal rescue: Lion and wolf find safe passage out of Ukraine war zone

Radauti, Romania

Simba the lion and a wolf named Akyla were evacuated from a zoo in war-torn Ukraine and brought to safety in Romania in what an animal rights group involved in the operation said was a rescue mission. four days “full of danger” still hampered by border entry bureaucracy.

The adult male lion and the gray wolf, who were wide awake during the dangerous trip due to a lack of tranquilizers in Ukraine, arrived at a zoo in Radauti on Monday from a zoo in Zaporizhzhia, southeast of Ukraine.

Now at a safe distance from the conflict and after spending four days in cages in the back of a van, the two animals were recovering from the trip to their new enclosure on Wednesday, regaining their strength by basking in the shade.

“If there’s anything this war has brought about, it’s incredible cooperation between organisations,” said Sebastian Taralunga of animal rights group Animals International, one of many who have been involved in the war. planning the extraction of animals.

“Everyone agreed that in extreme times we have to take extreme measures and we decided to do everything in our power to get these animals out of the war.”

The evacuation of the large animals was made possible through the efforts and cooperation of several animal rights groups and private citizens, including two men from the United Kingdom who volunteered to enter Ukraine to rescue the animals. animals and lead them to safety.

“I couldn’t find a driver from Romania to go and help me, not from Ukraine either, so these guys were absolutely fabulous – they put their lives on the line,” said Roxana Ciornei, president of the group. Romanian animal rights activist Patroclus’s House. . “But they arrived here safe and sound.”

The long journey from conflict-affected Ukraine, a mission fraught with the dangers of entering a war zone, was far from simple.

The van transporting the animals was unable to obtain authorization from the authorities to cross the Romanian border post of Siret. This left drivers with no choice but to cross the towering Carpathian Mountains – which cross the countries’ common border – twice from west to east, adding nearly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) to their journey.

“It was a decision at the central level that Romania and Ukraine will have only one border crossing for large animals,” said Gabriel Paun, European director of Animals International.

“It was a team of people acting in good faith to do everything possible to save these animals,” he said.

“It’s hard to get people out of Ukraine if they’re in very dangerous areas, but getting a lion and a wolf out…was mission impossible. I was fifty-fifty to know if these animals and these people would make it out alive.

Mr Paun said they were unable to find a vet to help them with their evacuation mission and no tranquilizers were available which meant the animals were ‘fully conscious and awake’ throughout. along their journey to safety.

“You can imagine what it means to drive with a lion and a wolf in the back of your van with cages that are not very stable and could have opened at any time,” said Mr Taralunga d ‘Animals International.

He said Simba the lion injured himself during transport after he bumped into the cage, but vets said it wasn’t serious and he would heal on his own.

The animals will now spend time in quarantine in their new enclosure and children and other visitors will be able to see them at the zoo, after which they will eventually be moved to sanctuaries.

“My NGO here runs a shelter of 300 dogs, we have cows, we have horses, but I never thought in my life that I would come and save a lion and a wolf,” Ms Ciornei said. “We brought a lot of people together and everyone did something together…and we managed to do it.”

“There is a good part in this war in Ukraine, that these animals will go to a better life.”

This story was reported by the Associated Press.