Russian-Ukrainian war: What happened to protected areas and ecology

In Ukraine more and more regions become war hotspots. Among them are protected areas. Pollution incidents have already put millions of people and ecosystems into long-term risk. During the war protected areas can be damaged or totally destroyed, and people who protected them, beside these responsibilities, had to join the army or help people who relocated from hotspots. 

European Wilderness Society continues to stand for Ukraine and supports activities to save protected areas. The aim is to engage the international community in this process and the first step is to raise awareness.

Animals under bombs

Not only people but also animals suffer from the invasion of Russian troops, shelling of settlements and damage to infrastructure in Ukraine. Hundreds of wild animals that depend on people in zoos and eco parks are now in mortal danger due to cessation of care and lack of food. For instance, in Kyiv and Kharkiv, civilian volunteers are trying to save animals at the risk of their lives, but are facing shelling and attacks by Russian troops. 

A private zoo near Kharkiv is trying to evacuate animals and rescue them from escalating hostilities, which have already gravely affected the site. Since the beginning of the war, the Feldman ecopark has been under constant fire. The park’s collection includes more than 300 species of animals. 

On March 8, two employees tried to feed the animals, but died under the mortar fire from the invaders. On March 9, kangaroos were killed in shelling. A large number of animals remain in the zoo, only some of them were evacuated or housed. On 21st of March lamas and monkeys succesfully evacuated to Poltava, but hundreds of animals stayed in Kharkiv.

Radiation risk 

Chernobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine. Photo made by Denys Vyshnevsky.

February 24th saw fighting around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and now it is under the Russian soldiers’ control. Chernobyl has already become a part of propaganda tool used by the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament cautioned that it could be used for a Russian false-flag incident. Given the symbolism of Chernobyl, it is likely to remain a key part of the environmental-propaganda war.

Chernobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve located on this area. Russia’s use of heavy explosive weapons that spreading chemical pollution around and forces local habitants to migrate in other areas that can be dangerous for them. 

Beyond sites linked to the nuclear industry, it should be noted that radioactive sources and materials can also be found in forests, lakes and fields. Finally, there are legitimate concerns that Russian tanks may be fielding 125mm depleted uranium ammunition and that assessments of wreckage should be undertaken.

The Black Sea Biosphere Reserve near Heroiske village, Ukraine.

Distraction of natural ecosystems 

The fighting close to Kherson, to take the bridge over the Dnieper, resulted in fires in the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve. These fires were detectable from space, and may have destroyed trees and unique habitats for birds in one the largest biosphere reserve in Ukraine.

The longer the conflict goes on, the greater the landscape level impacts will be. Thus far, Russian forces have stayed mainly to the road network and these have been the loci of fighting. However, this could change. Large military vehicles have made use of fields and cover for launches or concealment, however any impacts will likely be temporary.

In the material some analysis took form research published by Conflict and Environment Observatory. 

Further support

For donations in EURO

If you would like to support Ukrainian protected areas and its nature of international importance, please donate to the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group (UNCG). More details here.  

NGO Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group (company name)

UA653052990000026008045026453 (IBAN Code)

JSC CB “PRIVATBANK”, 1D HRUSHEVSKOHO STR., KYIV, 01001, UKRAINE (Name of the bank)

PBANUA2X (Bank SWIFT Code)

Purpose: “charitable contribution”

Many Ukrainian protected areas are also looking for temporary employment in other countries. Therefore if you aware or can offer such possibilities, please contact us.

If you are a ranger, forester or any other person who works for protected areas from Ukraine, please, contact us to tell your experience or share the thoughts. Please, fill the form below (you can do it in English or in Ukranian as well).

Contact form for ranger, forester or any other person who works for protected areas from Ukraine. Share your story!

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