Fifty Lions Face Starvation at Crimean Safari Park

Animals could be next victims of Ukraine-Russia standoff.

April 12, 2014, 1:55 PM
PHOTO: Visitors watch lions playing in the Taigan Safari Park, about 50 km (31 miles) east of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, April 12, 2014.
Visitors watch lions playing in the Taigan Safari Park, about 50 km (31 miles) east of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, April 12, 2014.
Alexander Polegenko/AP Photo

April 12, 2014— -- Fifty African lions are among a menagerie of animals that have become caught in the crossfire of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict.

The majestic animals, among them a breed of rare white lions, are at risk of starving to death at a Crimean safari park because of recent economic restrictions placed on Ukrainian accounts following Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.

The managers of Taigan park, located 30 miles from the Crimean capital, Simferopol, have been cut off from their Ukrainian bank accounts, and will soon be unable to feed and tend to the lions and other animals at the park, according to Reuters.

"(The situation) is very serious because, like all other companies, we stored our money in a Ukrainian bank," the park's director Oleg Zubkov said. "There is only enough meat in the park for a few days. We will have to come up with something."

The lions consume roughly seven to 10 kilograms (15 to 22 pounds) of meat each a day, adding up to about 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of meat per day for the entire park.

"It is impossible to explain to tigers that they have become victims of somebody's political ambitions or a revolution," Zubkov said.

The park, which opened in 2012, also boasts a pride of tigers, giraffes, miniature zebras, parrots Australian ostriches, bald eagles, Himalayan bears, monkeys and kangaroos.

Zubkov, a Ukrainian business entrepreneur with a military background, created the animal tourist attraction from a former Cold War-era military base over 90 acres of land, according to Russia Today.

Russia has intensified financial pressure on Ukraine since protests broke out months ago, which led to the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

On Wednesday President Vladimir Putin threatened that Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom could ask for advance payments from Ukraine for gas. The move came days after the gas giant announced it would eliminate the discount on gas prices it had been giving to Ukraine (equal to a 70 percent price hike), adding enormous strain to the country's $2.2 billion gas bill.

The AP contributed to this report.

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