Ukrainian Natalia Popova risks her life to rescue wild animals from war in Ukraine

Ukrainian Natalia Popova risks her life to rescue wild animals from war in Ukraine

Natalia Popova has discovered a brand new objective in life: Rescuing wild animals and pets from the devastation wrought by the conflict in Ukraine.

“They’re my life,” says the 50-year-old, stroking a light-furred lioness like a kitten. From inside an enclosure, the animal rejoices on the consideration, mendacity on her again and stretching her paws up towards her caretaker.

Popova, in cooperation with the animal safety group UA Animals, has already saved greater than 300 animals from the conflict; 200 of them went overseas and 100 discovered new houses in western Ukraine, which is taken into account safer. Lots of them have been wild animals who have been stored as pets at personal houses earlier than their house owners fled Russian shelling and missiles.

Popova’s shelter within the Kyiv area village of Chubynske now homes 133 animals. It’s a broad menagerie, together with 13 lions, a leopard, a tiger, three deer, wolves, foxes, raccoons and roe deer, in addition to domesticated animals like horses, donkeys, goats, rabbits, canine, cats and birds.

Natalia Popova says the animals are her life. AP

The animals awaiting evacuation to Poland have been rescued from sizzling spots comparable to japanese Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Donetsk areas, which see day by day bombardments and lively preventing. The Ukrainian troopers who let Popova know when animals close to the entrance strains need assistance joke that she has many lives, like a cat.

“Nobody needs to go there. Everyone seems to be afraid. I’m additionally scared, however I am going anyway,” she stated.

Typically she is trembling within the automotive on her approach to rescue one other wild animal.

Natalia Popova together with the group UA animals have saved 300 animals. AP

“I really feel very sorry for them. I can think about the stress animals are beneath due to the conflict, and nobody may help them,” Popova stated.

Normally, she is aware of nothing in regards to the animals she rescues, neither their names and ages nor their house owners.

“Animals don’t introduce themselves after they come to us,” she joked.

For the primary months of the conflict, Popova drove to conflict sizzling spots alone, however a pair from UA Animals not too long ago provided to move and assist her.

Most of the rescues have been stored as pets by personal house owners earlier than the conflict. AP

“Our document is an evacuation in 16 minutes, after we saved a lion between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” Popova stated. An economist by training with no formal veterinary expertise, she administered anesthesia on the lion as a result of the animal needed to be put to sleep earlier than it could possibly be transported.

Popova says she has at all times been very connected to animals. In kindergarten, she constructed homes for worms and talked to birds. In 1999, she opened the primary personal horse membership in Ukraine. However it wasn’t till 4 years in the past that she saved her first lion.

A company in opposition to slaughterhouses approached her with a request for assist saving a lion with a damaged backbone. She didn’t know the way she might assist as a result of her experience was in horses. However when she noticed a photograph of the massive cat, Popova couldn’t resist.

She constructed an enclosure and took within the lion the subsequent morning, paying the proprietor. Later, Popova created a social media web page titled “Assist the Lioness,” and folks started to jot down asking for assist saving different wild animals.

Natalia Popova says she’s at all times been connected to animals. AP

Yana, the primary lioness she rescued, has turn into a member of the family since she couldn’t discover a new house resulting from a incapacity. Popova took care of her till she died two weeks in the past.

The shelter is only a momentary cease for the animals. Popova rehabilitates them after which appears for brand new houses for them. She feels a particular reference to every large cat, however says she doesn’t thoughts letting them go.

“I really like them, and I perceive that I should not have the assets to offer them with the snug life they deserve,” says Popova.

At first, she bankrolled the shelter together with her personal funds from the horse enterprise. However since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the horse enterprise has not been worthwhile. With greater than $14,000 a month wanted to maintain animals wholesome and fed, she has turned to borrowing, and seen her debt develop to $200,000.

Natalia Popova rehabilitates the rescues earlier than discovering a brand new house for them. AP

She will get some cash from UA Animals and from donations, however worries about tips on how to hold every thing collectively have stored her up at night time.

“However I’ll nonetheless borrow cash, go to sizzling spots and save animals. I can’t say no to them,” she stated.

Popova sends all her animals to the Poznań Zoo in Poland, which helps her evacuate them and discover them new houses. Some animals have already been transported to Spain, France and South Africa. Her subsequent venture is sending 12 lions to Poland this week.

With no finish to the preventing in sight, Popova is aware of she’s going to nonetheless be wanted.

“My mission on this conflict is to save lots of wild animals,” she says.

About Muji Sakawari

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