In Kharkov, the Russians destroyed a unique eco-park: animals and volunteers died
Feldman EcoPark in Kharkov was destroyed by Russian invaders. Many animals and volunteers who tried to save them died. The creator of the park, Alexander Feldman, told how the animals were evacuated and how the park lived during the shelling, reports Voice of America.
Feldman Ecopark — it was a multifaceted charity project that combined care and assistance to animals, therapy for children with special needs, rehabilitation for sick animals, research and educational facilities, and leisure for those who love nature.
Oleksandr Feldman is a well-known Ukrainian businessman from Kharkiv, a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, reports Meduza. He opened the ecopark in 2011: at first, only a few dozen horses, sheep, donkeys and ponies lived in it, and by the beginning of 2022 - about two thousand animals (predators, big cats, reptiles, monkeys and birds). Russian troops attacked Kharkiv on the first day of the war - since then the animals have been under fire. The famous photograph of a llama next to an unexploded rocket was taken there. Feldman took some of the inhabitants of the Ecopark to his home: alpacas graze on his tennis court, and marabou storks settled in the pool.
“My house has turned into an eco-park: in every room there are “a pair of each creature”, like Noah's Ark. Evacuated five large turtles, almost all of the Red Book. Even today, bats were evacuated and released into nature, they also came under fire. We release everyone who can be released,” says Alexander.
Since the beginning of the war, six park employees and dozens of animals have died under shelling. For example, an adult male chimpanzee, two young female orangutans, many deer, ungulates. Many animals died from rupture of the heart and from the fact that they fought against cages. The birds died of fear. In addition, because of the cold and broken electricity, the cages could not be warmed up and the animals froze to death. A dog kennel was fired at, in which there are about a hundred thoroughbred dogs.
“A lot of small monkeys, which were the decoration of our collection, died from a broken heart. And another terrible moment - all the children died. Our park has always been famous for the baby boom. Proper nutrition, proper veterinary medicine and a lot of love. Felines, for example, are very difficult to breed, especially jaguars and lynxes, and we have always had a baby boom. And this year too. But every single kitten died. They were simply suppressed - from fear, from cold, from horror, ”says Alexander.
Feldman himself is now volunteering.
This week, for the first time, Ukrainian troops pushed Russian troops back to the border near Kharkiv. Feldman is still fighting. Now Alexander saves animals that actually have nowhere else to live.
There is a study by the American Northeastern University, which proves that people feel sympathy for animals more than for an adult who can stand up for himself, and the pain of a cub and the pain of a child are perceived equally. That is why the Americans helped the Kharkiv Ecopark a lot financially. But the cash flows dried up, and the entrepreneur himself actually went bankrupt.
“I dreamed about this park all my life. Since childhood. I brought home all sorts of frogs, lizards, cats, dogs. My heart is breaking, what can I say… This park was the soul of my family, my whole life,” says Alexander Feldman.
“Here's another victim of the 'Russian world',” says the volunteer, pointing to the murdered little donkey, covered in blood and eyes wide open.
“An hour ago he was running, eating hay with his friends, and now it’s like this…,” the volunteer says through tears, covering the eyes of the killed animal.
“You can imagine 240 hectares, which are located right in the city. The invaders stood on one side of the park, and our army on the other - you can imagine what was happening there, - says Alexander Feldman. The park was right in the middle. First one, then the other fired, and the park just got it. Each time we did not know whether a drone would appear over the park, whether there would be shelling of just the territory, whether we would run into some advanced units of the invaders. And the drone, as soon as someone appeared in the park, it aimed at us, and the shelling began.”
A volunteer with a crane under his arm tells how they get out of the park amid the shelling. “They fired heavily, a lot of animals lie,” he says.
“Time passed by minutes, in wartime it is very difficult to coordinate everything,” says Alexander. “From the first day of the war, we tried to save the animals. To our shame it will be said that 90% of the workers left. They abandoned the animals. Everyone fled. A small number of people remained - two guys remained in the park, a very elderly woman came to help, she lived nearby. These guys fed the animals for more than two weeks, moving around the park only by crawling. It is hard to imagine the distances that they crawled. And then they disappeared. And now the worst thing is that we found these guys, who then disappeared without a trace. Their bodies were closed in a barn with traces of bullet wounds. One had a bucket of carrots in his hands, and the other had dog food. These are the “dangerous” people who were killed by the occupiers.”
“Many animals suffered from heart failure. They died of fear. This person can run away from shelling, leave, go down to the basement, hide in a bomb shelter, but the animals have nowhere to run - they are closed in enclosures. Animals understand everything. When people say that animals do not understand, this is nonsense. Animals cry like us and suffer like us. Everyone understands, absolutely everything,” says Alexander Feldman.
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Often animals understand that they have come to rescue. A volunteer recalls a video of a kangaroo evacuation showing several adults and babies in the back of a car looking straight into the camera of a volunteer who is filming them from the driver's seat. “They drive like bunnies,” he comments. - Or to baboons - this animal can tear a goat - they went into the enclosure, put a cage in which to transport them, said: "Guys, we're leaving." And they all went there, and even sedation was not needed.”
“The whole country responded to our misfortune. I take off my hat. I am very grateful to everyone. Some sent cars, some sent cages, some just came to help. Now our animals live all over the country - in the Kharkiv Zoo, in Poltava, in Odessa, in Lutsk, in Kyiv, - says Alexander. The park is practically destroyed. A huge number of mines have yet to be cleared. As soon as the situation allows, and the war goes into areas that are not shot through for the park, we will begin to dismantle the broken enclosures and build new ones. Me and my family and my friends - we still wake up with the thought that this is some kind of dream, this cannot be, this simply cannot be. This is a catastrophe. And we will get out of it for a very long time.”
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