PARIS: Kiara, a six-month-old black panther born in war-torn Ukraine and victim of exotic animal trafficking, has found a new home at a wildlife refuge in France.
The panther with striking green eyes and shining black fur “escaped a tragic path in life,” veterinarian Jean-Christophe Gerard said.
She was just a few weeks old when the “private individual” who illegally owned her fled under bombing and abandoned the panther cub, Gerard said.
Soon after, the Wild Animal Rescue Center in Kyiv took custody of Kiara and contacted the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which helped her get out of Ukraine and into a zoo in western Poland.
Kiara stayed at the zoo for a few weeks, receiving care and recovering from her long journey.
The panther later arrived at Tonga Terre d’Accueil, a shelter for rescued or abandoned wild animals within the Saint-Martin-la-Plaine zoo in France.
The team specialised in helping “exploited and abused” wild animals will take care of Kiara while looking for her permanent new home.
Still just a baby, Kiara spends most of her time huddled in the corner of her enclosure. She only eats when alone.
The veterinarians at the refuge were giving her space so she can get accustomed to her new home.
“She’s been through a lot of changes in the people who take care of her, and this is all very traumatic for animals,” Gerard said.
Wild animals born in Europe are still wild, with the accompanying instincts, he said.
They need time to settle down, get used to their caretakers and new environment.
Still, Gerard occasionally manages to play with Kiara through the barrier of her enclosure.
“After this adjustment period, we will introduce her to another little panther so they can grow up and play together, and live their panther lives,” Gerard said.
“We hope she will leave in the near future” to “live a quiet life somewhere that meets her needs,” said Gerard.
Since the war began in February, IFAW says it has helped “countless wild animals in Ukraine” by providing emergency aid, food and working with partners to facilitate rescues when possible.