Runaway lion, wounded elk find home in Russian shelter

1 / 4
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)
2 / 4
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)
3 / 4
Moose eat in their enclosure at Veles, a shelter for wild animals in Rappolovo village, outside Saint Petersburg on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
4 / 4
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

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.


Saudi Arabia to host region’s largest global gaming tournament

Updated 18 October 2019

Saudi Arabia to host region’s largest global gaming tournament

  • The PMSC World Cup will be staged at Riyadh Front from Dec. 12 to 14
  • 16 teams from the Middle East and North Africa region compete with 16 teams from the rest of the world

RIYADH: Thousands of gamers and fans from around the globe are expected to descend on Saudi Arabia when the Kingdom hosts the prestigious PUBG MOBILE Star Challenge (PMSC) World Cup for the first time later this year.

Taking place in the capital during the Riyadh Season festival of activities, the region’s most popular mobile game will test the skills of a top international field of players.

The PMSC World Cup, set to be staged at Riyadh Front from Dec. 12 to 14, will see 16 teams from the Middle East and North Africa region compete with 16 teams from the rest of the world.

Event organizers are due to officially announce the total prize money up for grabs, but the pot is expected to top more than SR1 million ($267,000).

PUBG MOBILE has taken the world by storm since its release in 2018 with in excess of 400 million downloads. Its involvement in Riyadh Season is being hailed by gaming influencers as further indication of PUBG MOBILE’s commitment to bringing innovative technologies to the region.

PUBG MOBILE is based on “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” the phenomenon that took the world of interactive entertainment by storm in 2017. Up to 100 players parachute onto a remote island to fight in a winner-takes-all showdown.

Players must locate and scavenge their own weapons, vehicles and supplies, and defeat every player in a visually and tactically rich battleground that forces contestants into a shrinking play zone.

Decoder

What is PUBG?

PUBG stands for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. It is an online multiplayer battle royale game developed and published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole.