Some 300 Ukrainian zoo animals killed after Kakhovka dam collapse

Some 300 Ukrainian zoo animals killed after Kakhovka dam collapse

Over the past year, the keepers at the Kazkova Dibrova zoo in southern Ukraine battled to safeguard their charges under Russian occupation.

The park surrounding the zoo was mined and access routes blocked, making evacuating the animals impossible. Workers braved bullets from troops firing across the Dnieper River to make their daily trek to feed the animals.

In winter, one of the volunteers took home many animals that couldn’t otherwise survive the cold. Farmers and other residents brought vegetables — cabbage, apples, pears and pumpkins — and hay to feed a menagerie that included two monkeys, Anfisa and Charlie, a pony named Malish, a mule, a parrot, a crow, a groundhog, guinea pigs and ferrets.

Now, the sole survivors after a nearby dam burst on Tuesday are a couple of swans and ducks, the zoo said in a Facebook post.

The zoo, dubbed “Fairytale Dibrova,” is in a park on the banks of the Dnieper River, just west of the Kakhovka dam, which ruptured early Tuesday after a reported blast, sending a deluge through surrounding areas.

Ukraine dam’s destruction could ‘forever’ change ecosystems, officials say

Workers arrived at the zoo early Tuesday to find it entirely flooded. As many as 300 animals died.

“This is terrible grief, terrible pain,” the facility said on Facebook, adding that it had tried its best to save the animals’ lives.

The animal deaths were confirmed by Oleksandr Todorchuk, head of UAnimals — a rescue group that has helped shelter and rehabilitate animals during the Russian invasion. UAnimals sent rescue crews to the city to help save and feed any animals displaced by the dam’s destruction.

Ukraine and Russia traded blame for the damage to the dam, although it wasn’t immediately clear who or what caused it. Aerial videos showed heavy structural damage, with the dam appearing to be missing sections measuring hundreds of feet.

Both Ukraine and Russia have previously accused each other of plotting to destroy the dam, which Russia seized in the opening days of the conflict because of its critical role in supplying fresh water to Crimea.

Officials warn the deluge of water unleashed by its destruction will destroy wildlife habitats, imperil communities that depend on the water for drinking and growing crops, and force towns downstream of the dam to relocate.

Zoos have been swept up in the conflict across Ukraine. During Russia’s attempt to seize Kyiv last year, the animals at the capital’s zoo were spooked by air raid sirens and blasts, The Washington Post reported. Zoos in other places, including the eastern city of Kharkiv have been damaged in the fighting.

Video footage showed residents in communities downstream of the dam rescuing animals from the flood waters, including a man leading a cow through thigh-high water in the southern city of Kherson.

Kazkova Dibrova zoo officials received a glimmer of hope late Tuesday — a baby swan, only five days old and thought to have been swept away in the floods, had been spotted by local residents swimming with its parents.

The zoo suggested on Facebook that it was possible some other animals survived and urged local residents to look after them if they came across one.

Eve Sampson contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: The Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant in southern Ukraine were severely damaged on June 6, unleashing flooding near the front lines. Ukraine and Russia each blamed the other for attacking the site, destroying the plant and damaging the dam. As water gushed from the facility on the Dnieper River, which separates Ukrainian and Russian forces, officials on both sides ordered residents to evacuate.

The fight: Russia took control of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers died in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle, in late May. But holding the city will be difficult. The Wagner Group, responsible for the fight and victory in Bakhmut, is allegedly leaving and being replaced by the Russian army.

The upcoming counteroffensive: After a rainy few months left the ground muddy, sticky and unsuitable for heavy vehicles in southern Ukraine, temperatures are rising — and with them, the expectations of a long-awaited counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces.

The frontline: The Washington Post has mapped out the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

Some 300 Ukrainian zoo animals killed after Kakhovka dam collapse

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