Ukraine Sanctuary's Lions, Tigers Arrive in Poland Amid Russian Attacks

Animals from a sanctuary east of Kyiv, Ukraine, made it safely to Poland after the owner had asked for help getting the animals away from the military conflict as Russia's assault on the country continues.

A truck carrying six tigers, six lions two caracals and an African wild dog made a two-day journey to Poland to escape the war zone and arrived safely on Thursday, a Polish zoo official said, according to Reuters.

The Save Wild animal sanctuary, near the capital city of Kyiv, started evacuating some of the animals following reports of heavy artillery fighting in the area. The owner of the sanctuary had asked Zoo Poznań in western Poland for assistance in getting the animals across the border.

Speaking of the truck's journey, Zoo Poznań spokesperson Malgorzata Chodyla told Reuters, "They had to go a long way around to avoid Zhytomyr and other bombardment zones. They had to turn back many times, because all the roads were blown up, full of holes, impossible to pass with such cargo, which is why it took so long."

As the journey began, the Polish zoo had almost "lost hope" after finding out that as the truck was trying to leave with the animals, it was surrounded by Russian tanks, the zoo said Tuesday on Facebook.

"We spent the night waiting for the news, fearing the worst," the zoo said. But it later found out the animals would be making it safely to their destination after the drivers had made it past the occupation line.

All of the animals "miraculously survived transport" through regions of intense bombing and firing, the zoo said on Facebook. However, the zoo is concerned about a 17-year-old tiger and said all of the animals were exhausted.

The animals are resting at Zoo Poznań but may head further west. A sanctuary in Belgium said it would take in the six lions and the African wild dog, Chodyla said, according to Reuters.

The Polish zoo is working with Ukrainian zoos and rescue partners to evacuate as many animals as possible. Once the Polish zoo finishes its operation to evacuate animals in Kyiv, it will be providing supplies and help to a zoo in Lviv.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged people leaving Ukraine because of the military conflict to not leave their animals behind. "Just like humans fleeing from war, companion animals will be scared and stressed and are dependent on their human guardians for comfort and security," PETA said on its website.

Current regulations for bringing companion animals into the EU are next to impossible to implement, given the current situation in Ukraine. So countries such as Romania, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary and Poland have relaxed their restrictions on pets, making to make it easier for refugees to bring them along.

Update 03/03/22, 1:35 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with more background and information.

Zoo Animals Evacuated to Poland
A truck carrying six lions, six tigers, two caracals and an African wild dog from a sanctuary east of Kyiv, Ukraine, reached Poland on Thursday. Above, an Amur tiger bathes in a pool at Kyiv's zoo on September 17, 2010. Sergei Supinsky/ AFP/Getty Images