UKRAINE TURMOIL LEAVES ZOO ANIMALS IN DIRE NEED OF FOOD
NIKOLAEV, UKRAINE – March 28, 2014 – Following in the footsteps of Lawrence Anthony’s extraordinary Bagdad Zoo animal rescue mission at the onset of the Iraq War, an entrepreneurial, animal-loving, bush war veteran from South Africa, now Ukraine resident, Lionel de Lange, has taken on a unique cause with the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO) to save 6000 plus Ukraine zoo animals from starvation brought on by economic and political strife in the region.
While international governments are calling for support for the nation’s failing economy and looming debt default, thousands of Russian soldiers are amassing along the border causing fear and speculation among some of the Ukrainian population that Russia will move to take over even more of the region than their current annexation of the Crimea. In the midst of this economic and political turmoil, thousands of Ukrainian zoo animals are in dire straits because government funding for their food has dried up, leaving the animals to starve if aid is not provided by people of goodwill.
After receiving several pleading calls and communications from individual’s about the plight of the zoo animals, LAEO’s International President, Barbara Wiseman was contacted by de Lange and appointed him Director of a newly formed Ukrainian Chapter dedicated to the zoo crisis. “We want to make sure that not one animal perishes in the present crisis. For those of you familiar with what Dr. Anthony had to deal with in Baghdad, you know how quickly things can get very bad. In just 9 days, before he arrived, that zoo went from 600 animals down to 35. Most died from starvation and dehydration. We are asking you to help us ensure that none of these animals die on our watch,” Wiseman said in an emergency meeting with LAEO staff and volunteers.
Once obtaining details on the situation from de Lange who is in direct contact with Ukrainian zoo officials, LAEO immediately launched a fundraising campaign to supply food for the starved zoos, the Executive Director of the organization, Yvette Taylor, based in Durban spread the word with support from staff in France. “INSTABILITY AND EVEN JUST A THREAT OF WAR almost always has a very negative impact on captive animals and we need to ensure that the situation in the Ukraine does not result in massive losses. It is very much in line with a resolution we have presented to the UN to change international law, called the Wildlife in War Zones Resolution.”
While de Lange cautions anyone calling Ukraine a ‘war zone’ just yet, he is, nevertheless, determined that zoo animals will not perish as a result of political and economic instability.
“Just in the past couple of days since we began getting the word out to our members and supporters, people are beginning to step up and donate to ensure none of these animals unnecessarily suffer or perish. We have to cover their immediate needs and get some breathing room here so that we can then help zoo facilities implement self-sustaining longer-term solutions,” said Wiseman.
LAEO’s first rescue target is Ukraine’s 114 year old Nikolaev Zoo which has survived two World Wars. It currently houses 5,735 animals, including big cats, wolves, bears, bison, fox, monkeys, crocodiles, boas, deer, and a wide variety of birds and fish.
“At the Nikolaev Zoo, these thousands of animals are on the brink. There is only enough food left for the carnivores to eat today and tomorrow. The herbivores have enough to last one more week. Medical supplies have run out. These animals need our help right now,” said de Lange.
Lawrence Anthony (17 September 1950 – 2 March 2012) an international conservationist, environmentalist, and bestselling author had a reputation for bold conservation initiatives. Dr. Anthony, the only non-combatant allowed into Baghdad in 2003 during the first several weeks of the coalition invasion, made international headlines with his heroic zoo rescue initiative in Baghdad which will soon be the subject of a Hollywood movie based on the
book: Babylon’s Ark, co-written by Anthony and Graham Spence. Also drawing world-wide notice, was Anthony’s famous herd of traumatized wild elephants who became intensely loyal to him, and were featured in the co-author’s bestselling book: The Elephant Whisperer. One of the many extraordinary events between Anthony and the elephants recently reported is when the herd walked 12 miles to his Thula Thula game reserve residence after having an uncanny, sixth-sense perception of his demise. The herd appeared and stood outside the perimeter fence mourning his death with the family nearby for several hours and has since returned to the house on its anniversary for the past 2 years.
De Lange, a 48 year old, retired businessman and successful entrepreneur who relocated to Ukraine found himself in an animal care-giving role after providing food for abandoned stray animals and rescuing a puppy hit by a car outside his home in the city of Nikolaev. De Lange says he did not set out on this course to start an organization, but once finding out more about Lawrence Anthony’s conservation work, he decided to take the problem on and help the zoos build something more economically sustainable.
A new website with news and information on the LAEO Ukraine initiative will be live starting Saturday, March 29th, 2014 at:www.LAEOUkraine.org
For further information contact:
The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO)
+27 31 2002024 (office)
+27 82 7710362
Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO)
+1 (818) 769-3410 (office)
+1 (818) 406 -6321 (cell)