(KYIV) — A group of Ukrainian volunteers are attempting to rescue animals from a private zoo near the capital that was abandoned after the Russian army bombed and occupied the area.
Vitaly Mukhanov told ABC News that he had volunteered to help bring supplies to Ukrainian soldiers when he came across the Yasnohorodka family ecopark, about 30 miles outside Kyiv.
The park appeared to have been damaged by shelling, Mukhanov said. Animals, including camels and ostriches, were left with no food. Some were injured, while others were dead, he said.
“You could tell that many of the animals starved to death.” Mukhanov said.
Videos and images Mukhanov took of the scene and posted on Facebook on Monday quickly went viral and he said he was subsequently contacted by the zoo’s owner, who asked for his assistance.
In one of the videos, Mukhanov comes across a wounded ostrich. The bird appeared to be taking its last breaths as he gently stroked its head.
“You can see from the images that the animals were in a very bad way,” Mukhanov said.
“The town nearby was liberated from the Russians two days ago, so the owner is now returning to the zoo and they hope to evacuate the animals in the next couple of days,” he said.
As of Wednesday morning, Yasnohorodka family ecopark posted on their Facebook page that the animals were being rescued and evacuated from the area.
Mukhanov explained that due to the area being bombed and occupied by Russian forces, the owners and staff were in fear of their lives and had to flee the zoo as quickly as possible, forcing them to leave the animals behind.
“As of now this area has been freed and our Ukrainian troops are there, so we have organized and guaranteed the owner safety so he can evacuate the animals,” he said.
The owner will be returning back to the area hopefully by tomorrow, he said, but there are currently staff and volunteers on-site feeding the animals and safely beginning to evacuate some of them.
ABC News reached out to park operators but have not received a comment.
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