A Ukrainian zoo will put down thousands of its animals after volunteers were forced to flee Russian shelling.
The Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv says its largest animals – including bears and lions – are set to be destroyed as there’s no way of getting them to safety.
Oleksandr Feldman, the founder of the park and a local MP, said the creatures may escape as their enclosures have been damaged.
“There is no more Ecopark,” he said.
“After yesterday’s shelling, I can say that the park has been almost completely destroyed.”
“Animal cages have been destroyed, all the infrastructure has been destroyed, but tigers and lions have miraculously survived.”
“Their cages have been badly damaged, and they can go outside at any moment.”
The bear enclosure is particularly badly damaged, and he has just hours to decide if the creatures can be saved.
However, with time running out, all adult animals are “likely to be put down” as there’s no hope of re-homing them, he said.
In total, there are more than 6,000 animals at the attraction.
Meanwhile, heartbreaking photos from the Yasnogorodka Ostrich Farm and Family Ecopark, in a village on the outskirts of Kyiv, show animals that have starved to death.
Others have been eaten alive by desperate stray dogs, while several appear to have been shot at by Russian troops taking target practice.
The surviving creatures show signs of severe malnutrition and stress.
Chilling images show ponies that collapsed as they were loaded onto trucks.
One volunteer, Vitaly Mukhanov, took to Facebook to tell of his horror after stumbling across the site while delivering supplies to Ukrainian soldiers.
“You can see from the images that the animals were in a very bad way,” he said.
His photographs show significant damage to the zoo itself, likely caused by shelling.
Animals including camels and ostriches have been left to starve in the horror.
Vitaly later told ABC News: “You could tell that many of the animals starved to death.”
Animals used for target practice
“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.”
However, the attempt to rescue the creatures may now be abandoned.
Akim Akimenko, the owner of Yasnohorodka Eco Park, told local news outlet MyKiev: “Our [zoo] is almost destroyed and the situation in Yasnohorodka is very difficult.”
“There is sustained fighting. Therefore, we have great difficulties in feeding and keeping the animals.”
“We are trying to evacuate animals and ask anyone who cares about animals to help us organize an evacuation corridor.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.