3 Friends Cover 1,200 Miles in Van to Save a Lion and a Wolf From Ukrainian Zoo

The war in Ukraine is reminding us daily of the horrors of war. While thousands of people are dying in Ukraine and military trucks line city streets, there are some more hidden horrors of war that we are starting to see. For instance, who takes care of the dangerous animals at the zoo during a war? Well, these three Englishmen will if need be. Three friends covered 1,200 miles in a Ford Transit van to rescue a Lion and a Wolf from a Ukrainian zoo. 

Polar bear seen in a battered enclosure at a Ukrainian zoo.
A polar bear in an enclosure at the Mykolaiv zoo, southern Ukraine | BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

What is happening at the zoos in Ukraine? 

About a week into this war, zookeepers say that continuing to take care of the animals is getting increasingly difficult. The zoo in Lviv was particularly stressed about what to do with a lion and a wolf. Staying would require tremendous sacrifice, but leaving the animals to starve in captivity is too cruel to bear. This conundrum crippled the world. Thankfully, Tim Locks, his two friends, and some dedicated Ukrainian zoo staff took action. 

Boredpanda reports, Locks is a 45-year-old British veteran who, before rescuing animals, was fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish forces. His military career had him in Lviv for a time. So, when he heard about the situation with the lion and Wolf in Lviv, he knew it was a job for him and his buddies. 

How did these guys get a lion and a wolf out of Ukraine? 

The team led by Locks got the dimensions of the animals’ cages to be transported in and figured out what kind of vehicle they would need to transport the creatures. Before heading on the 1,200-mile round trip, the boys stocked up on supplies like baby formula, wipes, and other toiletries for the folks still in Zaporizhzhia. 

The crew drove their Ford Transit van 600 miles around the clock to get to the zoo quickly. Simba, the male lion, was already packed into his cage for transport by the time they got to the zoo. The female wolf, Akela, was getting sedated and prepared for transport. The team of three had to get a crane in to load the animals into their transit van. The lads were determined not to fail and got both animals loaded into the van without too much drama. 

After a mix of language barriers, the crew was ready to make the 600-mile journey back to Romania, where the animals would go to live at the zoo in the northeastern city of Radauti. Locks says the stress levels were rising as air-raid sirens wailed as they prepared to leave. To help the animal transport clear the city as quickly as possible, local Lviv police escorted them out of the city. 

They got the animals out safely

Polar bear seen in a battered enclosure at a Ukrainian zoo.
A polar bear in an enclosure at the Mykolaiv zoo, southern Ukraine | BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

Against all odds, the team of three successfully got Simba and Akela to their new home safely. After driving 1,200 miles across a war-torn country in a van, the team wants to do more to help other animals, but the war has only escalated since the first mission. 

The Boredpanda notes that another zoo in Mykolaiv, close to where Tim and his team went, has asked for international support to keep its animals alive after most of its staff were either evacuated or joined the military to fight Russian invaders. Although the success of this first mission is heartwarming and morale-boosting, there is still a major problem with what to do with zoos as Russia continues to make war in Ukraine. 

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