Oleg Zubkov, the owner of the Taigan Zoo in Crimea, published a video of himself capturing a raccoon in a Kherson zoo, grabbing the animal by the tail. The full version of the video also features the theft of a donkey and a llama.
Earlier, the news of Russians stealing the raccoon from the zoo prior to their troops’ withdrawal from Kherson was published by propagandist Anna Dolgareva. “I’ve been getting many requests for good news from Kherson. However, the only good news is that a friend of mine has been able to nick a raccoon from the Kherson zoo,” Dolgareva wrote, triggering a wave of jokes and suggestions of exchange.
Meanwhile, Zubkov presents the animals’ transfer to Crimea as a rescue operation. Russian media reported that the first animals had been shipped to the peninsula on November 5, as soon as Zubkov had arrived in Kherson. He told the journalists he was willing to cover the animal maintenance costs himself. According to Zubkov, the animals were in danger because areas adjacent to the zoo could be targeted by shellfire. In another video, the operator remarked that the animals needed relocation because they would drown if the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Plant dam is destroyed. A woman offscreen also remarked that all of the goats would stay in the zoo.
“Such a picturesque island. If only Oleg Zubkov could be running things here. Peacocks everywhere! How is one supposed to gather them? The locals are of no help – the only assistance we get is from the guys who invited us here to save the animals,” the operator says.
Oleg Zubkov is known online for his viral videos with lions from his zoo. Most videos show Zubkov taming them, for instance, by beating them with a slipper. The zookeeper also had a conflict with state official Natalia Poklonskaya, the Prosecutor General of Crimea at the time, who accused him of selling tickets under the counter and causing the death of tiger cubs by negligence, initiating criminal proceedings on multiple charges. One of the charges concerned the unauthorized felling of trees for the construction of a road to the zoo. Zubkov claimed many times that Poklonskaya had declared open season on him and his zoo, which she planned to shut down. He refuted all accusations, including those concerning the tiger cubs, saying that the animals died because the zoo was not provided with an extra backup generator during yet another power outage in Crimea. The one that EMERCOM gave then was taken back six days later, says the Taigan owner.
Immediately before his trip to Kherson, Zubkov was in a remand prison and was released on October 27 with a recognizance not to leave and to behave. He had been charged with a crime delineated in Clause 2b of Art. 238 of Russia's Criminal Code (providing a service that fails to meet health and safety requirements while being intended for children aged six or younger). The criminal case against Zubkov dates back to September 2021, when a child was injured in his zoo. A tourist from Krasnodar Krai with a one-year-old in her arms came too close to the cage with an Amur tiger, and the animal injured the baby's left hand. One of his fingers had to be amputated.
The Taigan owner was sentenced to two years and three months in a general security penal colony and a fine of $4,200. He also had to pay $10,200 to the injured party as compensation for moral damage.