Leningrad Zoo during WW2

The Siege of Leningrad in years 1941–1943 costed hundreds of thousands of human lives, but not just humans suffered but also the animals had to share the horrific destiny of the city.  During the blockade ruled in Leningrad huge lack of food and poor citizens had to eat not just their cats and dogs, but there are also proves of cannibalism.

Since 1865 had St. Petersburg – Leningrad also its ZOO. When the battlefront approached the city, about 80 of most rare species were evacuated, but the rest had to stay in sieged Leningrad. How to feed them, when even the people suffered by hunger? In first months of blockade collected the employees of ZOO dead horse bodies and feed carnivorous with them. When it was not possible anymore, the animals started to lose their weigh and the ZOO had to look for the new ways how to save them.

The most of species had no problem with eating vegetable food, but how to change for example the tigers into vegetarians?  The big cats refused to eat the porridge made of grass, leaves and moss, with angry growl they destroyed the bowls with vegetables. The ZOO keepers tried to put the porridge into the empty skins of rabbits and it worked. This way learned not just tigers, but also foxes or polecats to eat the vegetables.

The predatory birds had to learn to eat the fish. Just the golden eagle refused to eat fish so the employees of ZOO hat to hunt mice for him. Tropical animals like monkeys had to eat acorns and beechnut instead of bananas or grapes. Big problem was also with heating and water inlet. So the suffering and weak citizens of Leningrad had to bring the water from river Neva, so the ZOO keepers can keep the hippo at least a little wet.

Through all effort most of the animals in Lenigrad ZOO died. Most of them by hunger and diseases, but for example the elephant Betty was killed by bomb. The end of the blockade survived just bears, monkeys, hippo, camels and donkeys.

betty
Elephant Betty killed by German bomb (source: pinterest.com)

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