Animal rights groups say that possibly hundreds of animals have died at the Kiev Zoo in recent years as a result of poor living conditions, malnutrition and inadequate medical care, The Associated Press reports.
One activist even called the park, home to 2,600 creatures from 328 species, an animal concentration camp.
Despite the negativity, zoo director Oleksiy Tolstoukhov is quick to defend the institution.
"It's not as bad as they say," Tolstoukhov said. "In all the zoos, including in Europe, animals don't live a million years. They also die and get sick."
In October, owners replaced the zoo's management in an effort to repair the park's tarnished reputation. And while the new operators will point to their predecessors' horrendous track record, as well as a government audit showing reckless spending and illegally sold animals, the zoo's wildlife continues to perish.
"The Kiev Zoo will never attain any basic standards, it's so far removed from any zoo in Europe," John Ruane of Naturewatch, a nonprofit animal welfare group. "The conditions have been absolutely horrendous, and no matter how many more directors were appointed the situation still remained the same."
One theory proposed by activists is that the animals are dying off as part of a secret initiative to position the zoo for bankruptcy and sell off its valuable property at the center of Kiev. Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Read more from The Associated Press.
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