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MOSCOW, September 1. /TASS/. Russian rescuers have airlifted a lion’s cage to safety in a bid launched on Tuesday to evacuate predators from a flood-stricken zoo in the Far East city of Ussuriysk.
Its cage was lifted by a Mi-26 helicopter of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry after the team cut it from its foundations. "The king of beasts tolerated the flight well and it had no impact on its health or appetite," the ministry said.
A local city council official told TASS: "The lion, called Grey, had been the bravest one. That's why we chose him for the first flight."
The head of a rescue team from the ministry’s Amur centre, Vitaly Darchiya, said bears, boars, a wolf-dog hybrid and a wild cat would follow in the rescue. "Veterinarians are controlling the health of the zoo inhabitants. They say animals’ lives are not under threat," he added.
Rescuers plan to spend the night preparing for evacuating the animals and will continue the effort early on Wednesday. The animals will be taken by helicopter in special containers to a nearby former circus building. The facility is staffed by trained personnel and has cages adapted for a long stay, with water and food.
The evacuation effort involves troops, local officials, veterinarians and volunteers - an operation suspended for a while as vets said the animals needed rest. The creatures were given food, medicines and glucose.
Green Island animal park in Ussuriysk, flooded by heavy rain on August 30, was home to 39 animals, the smallest of the zoo's inhabitants evacuated first.
Two criminal cases have been launched into alleged cruelty to animals. No information is available as to how many animals may have perished.
Twenty creatures, mostly bears, remain in the flooded zoo. "Rescuers are monitoring the animals’ health round the clock," a ministry official said.
Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said on Tuesday that the evacuation effort was "a difficult operation that demands an individual approach to each animal" since they needed specific treatment and reacted differently under stress.