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When a war breaks out, our biggest concern is loss of human life, market crash, loss of property, fall of the government, sanctions, international relations. Among all of this, we all forget that besides humans and their creations, there is a major loss of animals and the environment, which we often term as “collateral damage”. This is not something unexpected, due to the prominent anthropocentric approach which our civilization tends to have and is also evident in every initiative which we take. This concern has recently come to the limelight because of the Ukraine-Russia war going on. We are all seeing the constant news feed on the destruction the war has caused to Ukraine, and the focus is again on humans- living beings who can speak and understand, and can take care of themselves, and minimal to no attention is being given to those living beings who cannot take care of themselves and cannot even understand the concept of war.
But what is happening in the current war is not something new, this is something which has been happening since time immemorial, animals and the environment has been taken for a granted for, and in some cases, have been used in an unfair manner for our own selfish reasons. There was a mass destruction to the environment, in fact, World War was one of the most damaging to the environment. Due to endless trenches and bunkers, grasslands and soil was greatly harmed, constant bombing caused noise and air pollution, the only agenda which the war had was maximum benefit to us, and no care or thought was put towards the environment. The gruesome details of World War I, is a stain on the so called “humanity” of our race. During the time of World War I, dogs were used as companions to stay with dying soldiers, used as suicide bombers, many animals have lost lives as collateral damage during war times. Around sixteen million animals lost their lives, or as we proudly say served during the war, this included horses, dogs, whales, donkeys and many more.,
We all can see the drastic and long term after effects which the war caused, we are now struggling to keep our natural resources alive, we have big organization, headed by the intellectual humans of the society, and the government of many countries, trying to figure out ways to save and sustain what is left of the natural resources and amid all this, we have repeated the history yet again.
The Ukraine-Russia war is impacting our flora and fauna in way we cannot even contemplate right now, because the after effects of these kind of wartime incidents is felt after a long time, after the war is over and attention of the world has been shifted to a newer issue, because the long term damage caused by the war unfurls gradually.
The main action of the war is happening in the urban areas of Kyiv. Kharkiv and Mariupol, where most of military establishments and industrial facilities are there. Some radioactive waste repositories have come under fire from Russian planes as well, which will not only have an immediate destructive impact, but will also leave a long trail of polluted and unhealthy environment. An important and serious future issue which this war will raise are transboundary disputes over control of resource, since the war is and will have serious impact on the resources and there will be a shortage, and Ukraine will try and capitalize on not only its own resources but also its neighboring regions.
Something which makes this issue of grave concern is also the fact that Ukraine is the home to multiple industrial sites, and was ranked low in environmental index and was criticized for its air quality, biodiversity production and the ecosystem health, and now this war has not only crushed the previous efforts by Ukraine but has also further aggravated the problem. The Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, has been considered as the pollution center of the country due to various industrial sectors in it. Scientist around the world have also warned that this war can also cause a man-made disaster worse than Chernobyl, since this region also has a site where a nuclear test was conducted in the 1970s.
The natural habitat of animals is the nature and forest, which has already been taken by us through our constant drive for progress, and now this war has taken the last of what was left for the animals. So many rescue animal shelters have been hit badly, although various organization across the globe are trying to send support, but the help is not enough. Staying back and taking care of animals is becoming dangerous day by day, because of which many people have also abandoned their domesticated pets and have let them fend for themselves, in such a bad situation. Also, people who are trying to take their animals with them are facing a lot of issues since the restriction and rules are very strict, and various nations have been asked to relax the rules in war times, still there is a big issue and rules and situation is unclear for people wanting to cross the border along with their pets.
Even though the rescue and shelter organizations there are trying their best to help the animals, but they are overcrowded, and there is an acute shortage or storage and supply. If the present situation continues then the death of animals by starvation and lack of proper care and medical treatment, which has already started will become a common thing. The animals are in grave distress and cannot understand as to why their owner have left them on the wrong side of the border and their worst fear, which is to be abandoned has come true.
Not only the domestic animals but the animals in zoo are also in grave danger, and it is more difficult for the authorities to evacuate or accommodate them elsewhere, since all of them are wild animals, and their evacuation will take some time, since lot of formalities and new rules and the logistics to move bog animals like giraffe and elephant will be required, and since very less attention is being given to this issue and negligible resources and manpower have been allotted and hence it is taking even more time, but the distress of animals is just increasing. In Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine, the Feldman Ecopark Zoo got damaged during fighting, and animals were not only hurt but are also killed brutally. The Zoo keepers in the other region are watching in horror since the only wall between the zoo and the Russian army is them, and they have no outside resources or help to protect and sustain the animals, the government has already left the sanctuary’s, parks, zoo and shelter to do something on their own.
Some zookeepers to avoid the horror of Kharkiv have tried to move as many animals as possible to safer places, and have tried to stock up on food and water, and some are also growing vegetables on their own land, to ensure some kind of availability of fresh food for the animals. But to keep a situation under control which involves animals who have no idea what is happening around them and why they are under attack, the zoo keepers have to at times take desperate measures, big animals like elephants are being kept on sedative so that they remain calm and can sleep at night, amid the constant shelling and firing. During the Syrian war, around 300 animals were trapped in a zoo were and later around only 13 were left, animals died of starvation, bombing and diseases, since they were trapped in the zoo, and the people of the zoo and some other welfare organizations are desperately trying to avoid the same situation and keep hope, but future of the animals is grim. Even more miserable situation happened during the Iraq war where people killed the animals of the zoo for food.
Even though so many past incidents have happened both to flora and fauna, but us “intellectual and superior” humans still haven’t learnt our lesson, we are still not taking the issue seriously even though so many past incidents have happened, which is enough evidence for the other nations, Russia and Ukraine as well, to keep aside our own selfish drives and wants and needs for some time, and do something about it. Just because the damage to flora and fauna might not affect us right now or is not hampering our life directly, there will be many repercussions of our actions today in future, instead of repenting in future, and push the burden of our sins on our future generation, we should realize the horrific damage we have been doing and trying and minimize the damage, if not compensate it completely.
War is never the last resort, there is always a way out, a better and less destructive one, where we are not harming innocent living beings.
Author: Pragya Narain
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India