Family pets and zoo animals have been evacuated from Ukraine.
Two young lions, who were in an animal shelter in Kyiv, are seen in an enclosure at Natuurhulpcentrum nature centre in Oudsbergen, Belgium on Wednesday. (Natuurhulpcentrum VZW/Reuters)
Natalia Horobets said a sad goodbye to her beloved pet cat Charly last week at an animal shelter in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
As Ukrainian troops fought Russian invaders, Horobets and her husband left their house in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.
However, after a long journey west on a crowded train, they chose to give up their pet, deciding that starting a new life hundreds of miles away would be challenging enough without having to care for a hyperactive cat.
Our train journey took 40 hours, Natalia Horobets remarked in Lviv, which, like the rest of Ukraine's west, has largely been spared from the violence. There were a lot of people, and we were worried he'd get trampled.
Rasma Krecia, a Latvian volunteer, is the rescuer who hopes to transport Charly and scores of other pets to Poland until the war is ended.
We're going to attempt to get as many animals out as we can, back to Latvia, back to Europe, back to safety, Krecia said as she loaded three vans with the first batch of dogs and cats at the Home for Rescued Animals in Lviv.
She told Reuters that she couldn't have stayed in Latvia and done nothing. I couldn't stay at home if I have the opportunity, if I have a large van, if I can bring food here and take some animals back to safety.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Lviv sanctuary has taken in additional animals from individuals fleeing the turmoil.
Along with foxes and storks, dogs, cats, and even a pet rat are also vying for attention.
A Lviv resident brought in half a dozen puppies that her friend had found in a box at the train station three days previously, where thousands of internally displaced persons pass through on a regular basis, while Reuters was at the center.
The Horobets family said their final goodbyes to their cat as Krecia prepared to fit cages to her vans.
"Charly, my little one, you will return home, but for the time being, you must stay somewhere else; you will be well there," Natalia Horobets stated.
Volodymir, her husband, said they had no idea what their future held: "We hope Ukraine will endure and win, and we will return home."
While some of the animals were sent north to Latvia, others were transported west to Belgium and Poland.
Two young lions were evacuated from Ukraine and taken in by a Belgian animal refuge, which claims Russian military threatened to shoot them when they spotted them outside Kyiv.
The lions arrived late Tuesday at the Natuurhulpcentrum shelter, one of the few that can provide rapid care to wild animals. They will be quarantined for three months in the shelter and nursed back to health before being placed in permanent homes, such as African sanctuaries.
The lion twins were abnormally small when they were rescued, lacking key nutrients like calcium and malnourished after being fed expired meat, according to the sanctuary, and X-rays revealed bone fractures.
Tsar and Jamil, twin lads born in January 2021, were scheduled to be relocated to Belgium in May after being confiscated by Ukrainian authorities from private owners who had mistreated them.
However, because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the transfer had to take place right once, with shelling of Kyiv, where they were being confined, inflicting stress and injuries as they jumped against their cages.
The lions' difficult five-day voyage from Kyiv to Poland's Poznan zoo began with a meeting with Russian military outside the Ukrainian capital, according to Frederik Thoelen, a scientist who has worked at the Belgian sanctuary since 2007.
"They pointed their rifles at the caregivers, the Russian army. They threatened to kill the animals if they didn't stop. No, those are our animals,' the carers replied. If you want to contact the animals, you must first touch us. On Wednesday, Thoelen told Reuters.
As a result, they put their lives on the line to save the creatures. The Russian army eventually let them through. Then it was on to the Polish border, which was a long, long distance away. To avoid the traffic bottlenecks, they had to take several tiny ways He went on to say more.
After a two-day journey from a sanctuary east of Kyiv, a truck carrying six lions, six tigers, two caracals, and an African wild dog arrived in Poland late last week.
The sanctuary's owner had requested assistance from the Poznan Zoo in western Poland to transport the animals to safety.
To avoid Zhytomyr and other bombardment zones, they had to take a long detour. They had to turn around several times since all of the roads had been blown up and were full of holes, making it hard to pass with such cargo, which is why it took so long Malgorzata Chodyla, a spokesman for the Poznan Zoo, said
But they've arrived, and we can't believe it.
Three older men who had no experience with wild animals aided the driver and have now returned to Kyiv to defend their city, she claimed.