Lions and bears are among the animals being left uncared for in Ukrainian homes as people flee Russian forces, animal welfare campaigners say.
They estimate there are thousands of captive animals in private homes in Ukraine, including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, crocodiles and pythons. It’s legal for people to buy these animals as long as they are bred in captivity.
One animal that’s been left to fend for itself is two-year-old lioness, Rura.
Asya Serpinska, 78, runs one of the biggest dog shelters in Ukraine.
When her neighbour’s barn in Hostomel, near Kyiv, caught fire after a Russian shell attack on 2 March, Asya ran inside to release birds, rabbits and foxes from the cages she knew they were trapped in.
But she knew her neighbour also had a lioness, Rura – and eventually found her in a basement.
“She had no-one to feed her and she looked quite restless and disturbed. So we started giving her dog food and water,” Asya said.
Heavy shelling stopped Asya from leaving home for the nine days after that, by which time the area around Rura’s cage had been mined.
“What is going to happen to these thousands of wild animals in private captivity during this war is a huge issue,” says Iryna Korobko, an activist with the Ukrainian Association for Animal Advocates.