Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

Ukraine: Mysterious Deaths at the Kiev Zoo

Kiev Zoo Zebra behind bars

Kiev Zoo zebra by Sergey Galyonkin on Flickr (2009)

The Kiev Zoo has recently attracted attention of both the traditional and citizen media because of the alarming events happening there: quite a few animals at the Zoo have died under unclear circumstances during the last year.

This timeline published in an Ukraina Kriminalnaya article was re-posted on the Legal Discussion Board [RUS]:

Хронология смертей в Киевском зоопарке

30 мая 2010 года – бизон (причина не установлена).
26 мая 2010 года – верблюд (причина не установлена).
26 апреля 2010 года – слон (причина не установлена).
29 марта 2010 года – умер самец зебры Гранта (сломал шею при переводе в летний вольер).
Март 2010 года – лошадь Пржевальского….
Конец февраля 2010 года – 20-летний амурский тигр Иван…
3 декабря 2009 года – уссурийский белогрудый медведь …
Январь 2009 года – сломал шею жираф Рами.

Chronology of Kiev Zoo deaths:
May 30, 2010 – a bison (cause of death unknown)
May 26, 2010 – a camel (cause of death unknown)
April 26, 2010 – an elephant (cause of death unknown)
March 29, 2010 – a male zebra named Granta (broke his neck while being transferred to an open-air summer cage)
March 2010 – a [Przewalski's horse]…
End of February 2010 – a 20-year-old Amur tiger Ivan…
December 3, 2009 – an [Asian black bear]…
January 2009 – a giraffe named Rami broke its neck

Ukrainian bloggers reacted emotionally to the events at the Kiev Zoo. Many believed that the animals had been poisoned in order to move the zoo to another location and sell the land to commercial developers.

LJ user vsegda_tvoj wrote [RUS]:

Площадь зоопарка составляет более 34 га, не малый кусочек территории в центре города, стоимость сотки земли составляет от 5 до 10 тысяч долларов. Наверное многие помнят, что еще три года назад ходили слухи о том, что на месте зоопарка будет выстроен элитные коттеджи и торговый центр. Животных же должны были перевезти в Вышгород, даже готовилось распоряжение о переселении жителей зоопарка… но вышгородская территория оказалась гораздо меньше киевской. Было решено увезти часть животных в пригород, а остальных отправить в зоопарки крупных украинских городов… Дело с переездом пришлось приостановить из-за поднятого шума касательно раздачи городским советом киевской земли.


Самое интересное что большинство погибших животных копытные – они куда вынослевей чем хищники или другие. Но это достаточно просто объяснить, у погибших животных очень простые вольеры, чем быстее они опустею, тем быстрее наш зоопарк превратится в коттеджный городок для мажоров.

The area of the zoo is 34 hectares, this is quite a plot of land right in the center of the city, where the price of [100 square meters] varies from 5 to 10 thousand dollars. Many of you probably remember that three years ago there were rumors about building elite housing and a shopping mall there. The animals should have been moved to Vyshgorod [a town outside Kiev], but Vyshgorod’s plot appeared to be much smaller than Kiev’s. So the authorities decided to move some of the animals to the suburbs and to send the remaining animals to other zoos across the country. The moving was stopped because of a scandal with illegal land zoning that involved the City Council…

The most interesting is that the majority of the dead animals were even-toed mammals – they are much hardier than predators or other animals. But it is easily explainable – all the dead animals had big open-air cages. The faster the cages will become empty, the faster our Zoo will be transformed into a cottage community for the rich…

The death of an elephant named Boy, once a symbol of the Kiev Zoo, was discussed the most. The management of the Zoo, appointed about a year ago, believed that the elephant had been poisoned, but conclusions of experts concerning the cause of Boy's death were very contradictory. According to, some experts declared that the animal had been poisoned, while others believed that the elephant had died because of inadequate care and bad nutrition.

During the last few months the elephant lost more than 2 tons because of a strict diet he had been put on. The zoo veterinarians thought that Boy was overweight (he weighed 6 tons, while the average for this type of elephants is 2 tons) and that the diet would benefit his health, reported The Ukrainian internet was filled with pictures of the elephant before and after the diet.

A story first published on the Internet by Alexander Nikolov, a former keeper who worked with the elephant and quit his job right after Boy's death, was re-posted by many bloggers and traditional media. Alexander accused the new management of being unprofessional and cruel towards the animals. According to Nikolov, the cause of the elephant's death was a rapid change in the diets and the stress that the animal had to go through. Alexander wrote:

Слону Бою резко сократили рацион сразу же после операции в мае 2009 года… Приблизительно с середины марта этого года слону опять резко изменили рацион.…Во время ремонта было решено в слоновнике … постелить асфальт, из-за чего расстояние от пола до потолка слоновника уменьшилось…Бой стал легко доставать до потолка и некоторых окон. Английские специалисты предложили использовать … электросторож…. Бой не мог поднять хобот – его сразу же било током. Никого не волновало, что слону чисто физиологически периодически необходимо поднимать хобот – так слоны выражают свои эмоции. Это все равно, что бить током собаку за каждое виляние хвостом… Он постоянно находился в стрессе…

After a surgery in 2009, the food allowance for the elephant Boy was reduced significantly… In the middle of March of this year his diet was sharply changed again… During the renovation in the cage, a new layer of asphalt was put so the distance from the floor to the ceiling reduced and Boy could easily reach the ceiling and some windows… English experts suggested using… an “electroguard”… Boy couldn't raise his trunk – he was immediately stricken by electricity. Nobody cared that elephants physiologically need to raise their trunks – this way they show their emotions. It is the same as to strike a dog with electric current every time it wags its tail. He was under stress all the time…

The idea that the Kiev Zoo animals are dying because of the management's incompetence was also supported by two former employees of the Zoo, Kirill Trantin and Sergey Grigoryev. They established the Kiev Zoo Salvation Group and tried to draw public attention to the situation there. A few more similar groups have been set up as well.

The Kiev Zoo story is still full of mystery and it is hard to predict whether the public will ever know the truth about the deaths of the animals. The feelings of the Ukrainian bloggers can be well expressed by this post of user K011fetka, who wrote:

Это мелко, подло и вообще отвратительно. Убивать зверей. Они же ничего не сделали. Они искренне верят людям.

Killing animals is mean, despicable and disgusting. They haven't done anything bad. And they genuinely trust people.

1 comment

  • Joe

    The animal are trusting these people for there care. These people should be put in cages, given the poisoned and put on diets and see how long they live.
    The animals should be sent to other zoos in the world. But money talks and killers walk.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site