The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has shocked the world over the past few weeks, and our hearts continue to go out to the victims of the war.
But we’ve also been moved by the countless stories of courage and resilience by the Ukrainian people, including many stories of people risking everything to protect animals in the country.
Recently, one British man truly went above-and-beyond in his mission to save Ukraine’s animals, evacuating a lion and wolf out by driving them out of Ukraine in a minibus.
According to Metro, Tim Locks, an Iraq war veteran, went on a mission to deliver aid to Ukraine amidst the war. But his trip took a surprising turn when he got an unusual request: a conservationist he met at a hotel asked him for help evacuating a wolf and lion out of Ukraine.
Transporting animals like that is no easy task even in the best of times, and transporting them across the border amidst Russian bombing was a daunting task. But Tim knew he was the only man for the job.
“Strangely, no one else wanted to do this,” he wrote on Facebook. “So this is what we do.”
After calculating that the animals’ cages could fit in their minibus, Tim and his companions traveled to Zaporizhzhia Oblast in southeast Ukraine.
The wold, Akeela, was sedated and placed in a container. The lion, Simba, was already caged. The animals were lifted by crane into Tim’s van, to be transported to a zoo in Romania.
“It took three hours as the crane driver and digger driver didn’t speak a word of English, and we don’t speak Ukrainian, so there was an interpreter who translated everything,” Tim told Metro.
The rescue team began their journey to the border, but it was already clear that many challenges lay ahead.
“Once we’d put all our kit in the back of the bus there was no room left,” Tim said. “As we left the city we were given a police escort, the air raid sirens were going and we only had 35 minutes before the curfew started.”
They drove hundreds of miles across the war-torn nation amidst bombing. They had to stop at Ukrainian checkpoints, and Tim says that when officials asked him to declare their cargo, he would reply “a lion and a wolf,” much to their disbelief.
“One guard told us there was a war on and it was no time to joke around,’ Tim told Metro. “I took him to the side of the van, opened the door, and showed him this proper big lion, like Aslan out Narnia.”
After a great deal of effort, the party was able to cross the border into Romania, and reached their destination, a zoo in Radauti.
A crew in Romania helped the party unload the animals to their new home, lifting their cages with a forklift.
Tim says the animals have made themselves at home, despite the long ordeal it took to get them there: “Simba and Akela are settling in well,” he wrote on Facebook. “Both are eating and drinking plenty and enjoying some chill time after the long journey.”
As for the rescuers, they rested a few hours at the zoo, having some celebratory “tea and biscuits.” But then, it was right back to Ukraine to continue their aid efforts.
“We are heading back to Ukraine but red tape is making it difficult to move animals and aid across the border,” Tim told Metro.
Still, transporting a lion and wolf out of Ukraine proved that they can do the impossible. “No one thought we would pull it off,” he said.
Thank you to Tim Locks, his companions and everyone who helped get this lion and wolf to safety!