Runaway lion, wounded elk find home in Russian shelter

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A man stands next to a lion in a cage, at Veles, a shelter for wild animals in Rappolovo village, outside Saint Petersburg on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
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Alexander Fedorov, owner and founder of Veles, a shelter for wild animals, visits a bear in Rappolovo village, outside Saint Petersburg on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
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Moose eat in their enclosure at Veles, a shelter for wild animals in Rappolovo village, outside Saint Petersburg on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
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Lion and brown bears wait in their cage at Veles, a shelter for wild animals in Rappolovo village, outside Saint Petersburg on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 December 2018
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Runaway lion, wounded elk find home in Russian shelter

  • There are around 50 million abandoned pets in the country, particularly cats and dogs, that breed in the wild as owners often do not sterilize them, Svetlana Ilyinskaya said

RAPPOLOVO, Russia: A lion that escaped from an airport, a crocodile found at a rubbish dump and an elk attacked by stray dogs — all these animals have found refuge in an unusual private shelter in Russia.
Dozens of bears have also passed through the Veles center, just outside Saint Petersburg, since it was opened in 2009 by businessman Alexander Fyodorov, who says he spent more than $1 million on the project.
“Our aim is to treat wild animals and get them back on their legs again in order to release them if that’s possible,” he said of the center in Rappolovo, 20 kilometers (12 miles) out of Russia’s second city.
“Some of the animals were found after accidents, others were abandoned. Sometimes their stories are like the plot of a film,” said Fyodorov.
One particularly dramatic story is that of a lioness called Elza, who escaped in Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport in December last year.
“Elza was sent from Grozny (the capital of Chechnya) by a Chechen businessman to his friend in Saint Petersburg as a New Year’s gift,” Fyodorov said.
“But the sleeping pills given to the lioness before the trip stopped acting too early. In the airport, the lion broke her cage open and made a run for it.”
The lion was soon captured and later taken to her new owner, but he quickly realized that “it was impossible for him to keep a lion” and brought her to the shelter.
At the time, keeping wild animals at home was not illegal, but a law was recently enacted that bans the practice from next year.
Less is known about the background of the crocodile named Gena who was found at a rubbish dump north of the city.
Keeping exotic wild animals as pets has long been fashionable among certain rich or novelty-seeking Russians but often ends unhappily with animals mistreated or escaping.

Other animals come to the shelter after incidents in the wild.
Two years ago, while still a foal, an elk called Alyuminka was badly hurt by stray dogs attacking her. Elks are still common in European Russia, living in forests. She now paces the enclosure in Rappolovo.
“Those animals that could not survive in the wild stay here,” said Alexander Teplyakov, a 45-year-old volunteer at the center.
Four staff and around 10 volunteers work in Rappolovo, where the animals are kept in huge cages or enclosures around a large stone building housing a medical facility.
Despite Russia’s huge size, human activity is increasingly encroaching on the animals’ natural habitat and making it harder for them to survive in the wild.
The state does little to support them, even as President Vladimir Putin gives speeches praising Russia’s natural heritage and enjoys occasional photo opportunities with wild animals.
“In Russia, you can count centers like this, where there is real help given to wild animals, on the fingers of one hand,” said Svetlana Ilyinskaya, co-director of the Center for Legal Protection of Animals, a Moscow NGO.
There are around 50 million abandoned pets in the country, particularly cats and dogs, that breed in the wild as owners often do not sterilize them, she said.
For wild animals, road collisions are a frequent cause of death, with 161 vehicle accidents recorded in Russia last year involving large animals — often elks.
Ilyinskaya said that “there is no effective plan to help wild animals in need.”
“There are no shelters, nor (public) awareness of what you should do if you find a wounded animal in the wild. There’s also no law that could protect them against industrial development,” she said.
And for private shelter owners like Fyodorov, the costs are prohibitive.
“I’m not sure how long we can go on,” he said, explaining that profits at his construction business had been hurt by the economic crisis that hit Russia in 2014.
“You can’t predict the future,” he said, admitting that his friends think he is “crazy” for maintaining the shelter.


After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

Updated 16 June 2019
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After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

  • Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George
  • The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market

NEW YORK: After triumphing on Broadway, the lower 48 states and London’s West End, “Hamilton” is eyeing its first non-English production as well as tours throughout Europe and Asia.
The much-decorated musical, currently being staged nightly in London and New York as well as four other US cities, last month announced plans to launch in Sydney in early 2021 in a production expected to tour Australia before going to Asia, its producer said in an interview.
The “Hamilton” team is also working with a German hip-hop artist and playwright to develop a German-language version of the work.
The show, which is performed by a mostly non-white cast and mixes pulsating rap numbers with ballads and traditional musical numbers, has been credited with invigorating Broadway, thrilling audiences of all ages and across the political spectrum.
Producer Jeffrey Seller told AFP he sees a lot of international interest in the show. Australians frequently stream its soundtrack, Germany has long been receptive to American musicals and a Mexico City show, perhaps in Spanish, is also a possibility.
“My hope is that our story is resonant to people all over the world as a story of revolution, as a story of ambition, as a story of self-realization,” said Seller, who has been called the “CEO of Hamilton Inc.”
“I think Alexander Hamilton’s journey is universal.”
The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market.
Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton — introduced as “a bastard, orphan son of a whore” — who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George Washington during the American Revolution and later the architect of the US financial system in the republic’s early days.
Hamilton was killed in a duel in 1804 by Aaron Burr, a foil throughout the show and the character who sings “The Room Where It Happens,” a jazzy show-stopper about political horse-trading.
Nearly four years after its Broadway debut, the show completely sold out during the just-ended 2018-9 season, garnering almost $165 million, or nine percent of Broadway’s total in a record-setting season.
Business is also brisk for three national touring companies, which typically perform three- and four-week stints in American cities of varying size.
The “Angelica” touring company — named for Hamilton’s sister-in-law in the musical — made its Louisville premiere earlier this month at the Kentucky Center. The venue seats 2,400, about 1,100 more seats than the musical’s Broadway home at the Richard Rodgers Theater.
Anticipation for the show boosted subscriptions for touring Broadway shows in Louisville this season by nearly 20 percent, said Leslie Broecker, Midwest president for Broadway Across America, who calls the show a “catalyst” in attracting new audiences.
Shannon Steen, a University of California professor specializing in performance studies and race theory, attributes the show’s domestic success to Miranda’s skill at blending musical genres while appealing to diverse political constituencies.
The show “confirms this idea that America can serve as a city on a hill for global democracy,” a theme that resonates with conservatives, Steen said.
At the same time, signature lines such as “immigrants get the job done” have emerged as applause points for critics of US President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies, which parallel similar debates in other markets.
The show’s themes about immigration “will likely not resonate in the same way (as in the US), but it will be interesting to see how those things are taken up by audiences in other countries,” Steen said.
International investments will be tailored by market. Seller expects an English-language version of “Hamilton” to play in Paris perhaps for an eight- or 10-week run as part of a European tour around 2022-23.
He said the French have not shown much hunger for past American musicals, but that this show — which features a prominent French character in the Marquis de Lafayette — could spawn a French-language version if it sells well.
But Germany has for years been a robust market for US musicals, including “Wicked” and “Lion King,” and “they have the population to support it for a long run,” Seller said.
Stephan Jaekel, a spokesman for Stage Entertainment in Germany, which has been overseeing auditions for “Hamilton,” said the aim is to open in the fall of 2020 in Hamburg, but that a final deal has yet to be signed.
“We much look forward to presenting it to German audiences and hope to be able to start ticket sales soon,” Jaekel said in an email.
Seller hopes to announce the show in the coming months.