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Dogs, cats & now jaguars — Indians go extra mile to ensure safety of pets in war-hit Ukraine

New Delhi: As Indians, mostly students, returned to India from war-torn Ukraine, many refused to leave their furry (and ferocious) friends behind. 

As stories of students returning with their dogs and cats surfaced, the latest tale of pet love is that of an Indian doctor in Ukraine who has refused to leave the country because he doesn’t want to abandon his two pets — a jaguar and a black panther!

Yes, you read that right. Doctor and YouTube vlogger, Kumar Bandi, a native of Andhra Pradesh who has been living in Ukraine for the past 15 years, is now living with his pets at a bunker in Donbas.

“If I abandon them, they will definitely die, and I can’t bear that, I will look after them till my last breath, and if I die, I will die along with them,” said Bandi in a video on his YouTube channel, explaining his decision to stay back in Ukraine even as he helped arrange the evacuation of other, fellow Indians.

A number of Indian students have returned home with their pets, some even forgoing personal belongings to bring them back. 

The Indian government has also made a one-time exemption on its policies on bringing pets from abroad, keeping in mind the circumstances.

On 2 March, the Ministry for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying issued a memorandum informing the same.

Also read: For Indian students going abroad, only destinations change — and the crisis

‘I will die along with them’

Bandi is presently at his home in the Donbas region — which includes Luhansk and Donetsk, recognised by Russian President Vladimir Putin as independent republics — around 850 kms away from the country’s capital, Kyiv. 

He claims that one of his pet jaguars — named ‘Yagwar’ — is a cross-breed of a Amur leopard and a jaguar, and is thus a rare species. 

While he’s had Yagwar for the last 19 months, two months ago he bought a black panther for the purposes of mating it with the jaguar.

Reports suggest that Bandi, who has always been an animal lover, had pet cats, dogs and birds, but developed the desire to have a big cat after he saw a Telugu movie in which the protagonist had a pet leopard.

 When he moved to Ukraine 15 years ago to study medicine, Bandi wanted to get a Royal Bengal Tiger or a Asiatic Lion, but was denied permission by the authorities for the same. 

He then thought of getting a rare jaguar breed, permission for which was thereafter approved.

Bandi’s Youtube channel, called Jaguar Kumar, chronicles the days of Yagwar and Bandi’s experiences of bringing him up. The last few videos uploaded on the channel show Bandi and Yagwar in the bunker in Kumar’s house in Donbas.

Bandi, who has also acted in some movies in Ukraine — where his brother, Ram Bandi, studied medicine before him — also uploaded videos showing the two siblings arranging help for other Indians stuck in Ukraine.

In spite of his connections, however, he asserted that he will not abandon his two pets.

“If I abandon them, they will definitely die, and I can’t bear that, I will look after them till my last breath, and if I die, I will die along with them”, said Bandi in a video uploaded in Telugu on his channel. 

“My main motto in life is to conserve endangered species,” he added.

Indians return with pets, government relaxes restrictions

As the Russian aggression on Ukraine began, many Indian students in the country took to social media to request help not just for themselves, but also their pets.

One such student, Rishabh Kaushik, who refused to leave his pet dog — Malibu — behind, returned to India from Kharkiv, along with his four-legged friend on 4 March.

Another Indian student, Arya Aldrin from Kerala, said that she walked 20 kms to the Romanian border with her five-month old Siberian Husky, Zaira. 

A notification by the Ministry for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying on 2 March said that formalities for export of pets into India were being relaxed as a one-time exemption for Indians returning from Ukraine.

“Considering unique and extraordinary situations on war-hit Ukraine wherein pre-expert requisite formalities for the export of pets into India may not be fulfilled, the import of pet dogs and/or pet cats along with stranded Indians being rescued by the Government of India is being facilitated as a one-time relaxation measure,” the statement by the ministry read.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: Indians stranded in Ukraine’s Sumy boil snow for drinking water, deny Putin’s ‘hostage’ claim

Source: The Print

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