Guardians of Hope: UAnimals' Mission to Rescue Animals Amidst War

March 15, 2024
Having launched its aggression, Russia continues to destroy the Ukrainian environment. But what efforts is the Ukrainian civil society taking to mitigate the effects?
Photo credit: UAnimals

The Russian aggression not only devastates Ukrainians’ lives and homes but also inflicts irreparable harm on the Ukrainian environment. Daily documentation reveals environmental crimes committed by the Russian army.

  • Olha Chevhanyuk, the head of the international department of the NGO UAnimals, speaks to UkraineWorld about the damage Russia has caused to the shared home of all Ukrainians — the environment — and the important mission her organisation has been carrying out to rescue and protect Ukrainian animals from the horrors of war.

The full-scale invasion has caused damage to 20% of Ukraine's protected areas; currently, eight national reserves and twelve national parks are under occupation. Forest fires, water and air pollution, and land degradation are all the results of combat and shelling.

Animals, both domestic and wild, bear a heavy toll in this war, facing environmental pollution and the direct impact of combat actions.


Tragically, due to Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, 6,000,000 animals have died, 600 species have been wounded, and 80 species are now on the brink of extinction.

In order to understand the significance, the destruction of the Kakhovka dam alone resulted in the deaths of over 74,000 animals.

Ukrainian civil society is working hard to raise international attention to Russian crimes against the environment and to protect Ukrainian nature. The NGO UAnimals, known for advocating animal protection, has expanded its activities since the onset of the full-scale invasion.

One of its new initiatives is #StopEcocideUkraine, a global campaign that highlights Russia's ecocide against Ukraine, advocates for holding the aggressor accountable, and engages the global community to help restore Ukraine's environment.UAnimals has organised over 300 events in 50 countries worldwide and engages in discussions with international organisations and politicians.

Another crucial focus is rescuing animals affected by full-scale aggression, as they are among the most vulnerable beings in combat conditions. Since the start of the full-scale invasion, the number of stray animals has increased drastically, and in the frontline areas, their numbers have doubled or tripled.

Sometimes people flee and leave their animals behind. Other times their owners die, leaving them to fend for themselves. Thus, the abandoned animals are subjected to intense hunger and disease, all while being exposed to Russian shelling.

UAnimals' primary focus in this regard is the evacuation of animals from conflict zones. Over the past two years, they have successfully evacuated more than 3,700 animals, including not only domestic animals but also wild creatures like tigers, lions, camels, and porcupines, from high-risk areas.

The UAnimals team responds to requests for animal evacuation through their website, where a form is available for those who seek assistance. Upon receiving requests, managers analyse the situation, devise a plan, and collaborate with individuals to ensure a smooth handover of the animals.

Equipped with specially designed vehicles and all necessary amenities for the animals' comfort, the highly trained team members risk their lives to evacuate animals from life-threatening locations and transport them to shelters across Ukraine, where efforts are then made to be rehomed.


UAnimals faces significant challenges. The organisation grapples with a high volume of requests, necessitating the prioritisation of regions with the most pressing environments. Moreover, the sheer number of animals in need complicates finding places to house them, as shelters quickly become overcrowded.

In addition to evacuations, UAnimals works to rebuild destroyed shelters, having already rebuilt over 18 facilities and providing a steady flow of assistance. Their enormous dedication to feeding animals — which includes distributing over 900 tons of animal food — is evidence of this. It also raises funds for the treatment and rehabilitation of animals affected by this war.

Each rescue undertaken by UAnimals holds a special place in the hearts of team members. Notable stories include the rescue of Rory, a lion evacuated from Sumy Oblast amidst constant shelling. He is currently undergoing rehabilitation at Natalia Popova's Wildlife Rescue Center.

Or the evacuation of two traumatised German Shepherds, Max and Gabi, from a combat zone to Kharkiv. Ukrainian soldiers found them locked in a house near the front lines. It is unclear what happened to their family. Gabi and Max now have a loving family that includes two wonderful people and eight other dogs.

Another remarkable rescue involved Camila, a horse who survived a Russian missile strike at the Lysychansk Equestrian School. After shrapnel damaged her hoof tendon, the wound healed incorrectly, and now Camila requires specialised care. UAnimals is currently fundraising to establish a veterinary hospital for horses like Camila, ensuring they receive the necessary love and care.