The century-old zoo has come under fire recently from the media, government officials and animal advocates. The firestorm of criticism has only increased after several high profile deaths in the past year, including an Indian elephant named Boy who collapsed and died in his enclosure.
Additionally, a camel died of a digestive illness and a zebra crashed into a metal fence and died.
The Kiev Zoo was once highly successful and highly praised, but in the hard economic times after the fall of the USSR, the animals were left neglected. Conditions steadily deteriorated and in October, the old managers of the zoo were replaced and there was hope that conditions might improve under new management.
But things have not improved.
Over a two year period, half of the zoo’s animals either died or mysteriously disappeared. Audits of the zoo have found that the zoo has illegally sold its animals, purchased animals which never arrived, and money that was allotted to buy food and medicine vanished.
There have been so many accusations back and forth that it’s hard to keep track. Managers at the zoo have been accused of corruption and those managers have blamed their predecessors as well as other zoo employees for killing animals. Animal advocacy groups have accused zoo officials of purposefully killing off animals so that they can sell the land that the zoo sits on.
And accounts of how animals have died are just as depressing and infuriating as the accusations. One zoo worker says that Boy the elephant died because employees fluctuated his diet so extremely that it caused heart failure. Several fish died back in December because a power outage cut the oxygen flow to their tank.
Accounts vary, but somewhere between 300 and 500 animals have died at the zoo in the past two and a half years and unless the zoo is closed, we can probably count on another couple hundred dying over the next few years.
Tamara Tarnavska works with SOS, an animal advocacy group based in Kiev. She says the Kiev Zoo is a concentration camp for animals. But isn’t every zoo a concentration camp for animals? Animals languish in miserable cages every day in zoos all over the world, and they die with no one to mourn them.
Animals don’t exist for our entertainment any more than they exist for our consumption. If we’ve learned anything from watching zoos operate, it’s that when the going gets rough, it will always be the animals who suffer. When money is short, the animals are the ones who go without proper food and medical care. When the heat goes out, it’s the animals who freeze to death. When the power goes out, it’s the animals who suffocate.
We might be especially horrified to see animals dying in Kiev, but is the Kiev zoo really that different from the zoos in our own cities?
Photo: Open Cage