Zoo animals in Ukraine desperately need your help

2014-04-22 00:00

THE Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation (LAEO) is appealing to supporters at home and abroad to help zoo animals in the Ukraine.

While international governments are calling for support for the nation’s failing economy and are concerned that Russia will move to take over even more of the region than their current annexation of the Crimea, around 6 000 animals are believed to be at risk of starving to death because government funding for their food has dried up.

In response to the crisis, the LAEO — which was started by internationally-renowned conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who died in March 2012 — has appointed Lionel de Lange, a South African who lives in the Ukraine, director of the newly formed Ukrainian chapter.

The organisation’s international president, Barbara Wiseman, told The Witness, “We want to make sure that not one animal perishes in the present crisis.”

She added that people who were familiar with Anthony’s famous rescue of animals in the Baghdad Zoo, during the Iraq War in 2003, knew things could deteriorate quickly.

“In just nine days, before he arrived, that zoo [in Iraq] went from 600 animals down to 35. Most died from starvation and dehydration. We are asking you to help us ensure that none of these animals die on our watch,” Wiseman said.

Yvette Taylor, executive director of the Durban-based LAEO, said they had launched a fundraising campaign to supply food for animals, with support from staff in France.

“Instability and even just a threat of war almost always has a very negative impact on captive animals, and we need to ensure that the situation in the Ukraine does not result in massive losses,” she said.

“It is very much in line with a resolution we have presented to the United Nations to change international law, called the Wildlife in War Zones Resolution.”

The LAEO’s first rescue target is Ukraine’s 114-year-old Nikolaev Zoo, which has survived two world wars. It currently houses 5 735 animals, including big cats, wolves, bears, bison, foxes, monkeys, crocodiles, boas, deer, and a wide variety of birds and fish.

“At the Nikolaev Zoo, these thousands of animals are on the brink … These animals need our help right now,” said De Lange, a 48-year-old, retired businessperson and successful entrepreneur.

Wiseman added, “Just in the past couple of days since we began getting the word out to our members and supporters, people are beginning to step up and donate to ensure none of these animals unnecessarily suffer or perish. We have to cover their immediate needs and get some breathing room here so that we can then help zoo facilities implement self-sustaining longer-term solutions.”

• If you would like to get involved, you can make a donation via the website www.earthorganization.org

You can also keep up to date with what’s happening in the Ukraine zoos at www.LAEOUkraine.org or the Facebook page: The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation — Nikolaev (Mykolaiv), Ukraine.

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