Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kiev Zoo- A Wild Gulag in the Former Soviet Union

Boy, a 39-year-old Indian elephant lies dead in Ukraine's Kiev Zoo

Zoos have always been a favorite destination for people for generations. Instead of traveling to remote corners of the world, most people choose to visit zoos to see various species of exotic animals. Some of these facilities have gained popularity for their size and layout. Among them include the San Diego Zoo, which is also famous for its conservation programs in saving endangered species such as the California Condor and the Arabian oryx. But although the San Diego Zoo is prized for its role in the global conservation of endangered animals, it shares one characteristic in common with other facilities: many wild animals are deprived of their freedom. Some zoos in this world have become more than just places of solitary confinement for animals. They tend to have conditions so poor, that animals are subjected to a great deal of neglect and abuse. Conditions vary from cramped spaces, to inadequate food and water. One particular zoo that gained such a notoriety in recent years was Ukraine's Kiev Zoo.

Since its establishment in 1908, the Kiev Zoo had a history of hardships but gradually began to prosper after the difficult periods of the Russian Revolution and World War II. In 1996, it was admitted to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. However, the zoo was stripped of this prestigious status in 2007 over poor conditions and mistreatment of animals. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the zoo had been pushed into poverty as animals were kept in cramped conditions, fed improperly, and left unattended. One of the unfortunate victims was a female brown bear named Dinara. She was moved from her old cramped enclosure to a larger pen, which turned out to be occupied by a male Malaysian sun bear. This led to Dinara being stressed so much, that she repeatedly banged her head against the concrete walls and leaving trails of blood. She was then euthanized. Others included Boy, a 39-year-old Indian elephant, who was found dead inside his enclosure in April. It had been initially claimed that he was poisoned, but the autopsy was inconclusive.

A month later, a camel named Maya died as a result of abdominal bloating after a sudden diet change. Her death was blamed on a middle-aged man who resembled Serhiy Hryhoryev, one of the zoo's workers. Theo, a zebra was separated from other female zebras and died in late March due to stress seen while throwing himself into a metal fence to reach them. According to the zoo's new director Oleksiy Tolstoukhov, about a quarter of animals have died and another quarter disappeared after the old director Svitlana Berzina was ousted in October. He further added that the zoo's problems grew more worse under the leadership of mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, who has been accused for mismanagement. In addition to that, a government audit found that thousands of dollars were misspent as animals were illegally sold and funds for their food and care disappeared. Prosecutors have even opened an investigation on the zoo.

The news report really gives a clear picture of what dark secrets are hidden behind various zoological facilities. Wild animals are not only deprived of their freedom, but are also victims of abuse and cruelty which leads to deaths in countless numbers. I was deeply shocked and outraged at various examples of these forms of cruelty towards animals. Many were kept in cramped conditions, they were unattended, and were never given a balanced diet. Some like the zebra named Theo was kept separated from other zebras, which led to him feeling deeply stressed and eventually dying as a result of this behavior. This goes to show that the caretakers of the zoo have failed to understand their animals' needs. Other violations included purchasing medications for apes that had already perished, and even an illegal sale of twelve macaque monkeys. The report even stated that even with new managers, the zoo's animals continue to die. I personally feel that the remaining animals are in a great need of help, and need to be relocated to rehabilitation centers. As of now, the Kiev Zoo has become a living death camp for wild animals and unless they are rescued, the zoo will be out of business.

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