An Indian doctor is stranded in war-torn Ukraine, holed up in a basement with his two pet big cats – a panther and a leopard. Dr Girikumar Patil is living in a bunker below his home in Severodonetsk, in the Donbas region.
The region is controlled by separatists and the situation is fast deteriorating. But Dr Patil is not ready to leave the animals behind.
“I will never abandon my pets to save my life. Of course, my family is urging me to return. My pets are my children. I’ll stay with them and protect them until my last breath,” he told The New Indian Express (TNIE).
Dr Patil went to Ukraine in 2007 to study medicine, and later settled down in Donbas. TNIE reported that he later joined a local government hospital as an orthopaedic.
He found the jaguar “orphaned an ill” in a local zoo and with the permission of authorities, adopted it. Dr Patil has named the animal Yasha. Two months ago, he brought the black panther Sabrina as a mate to Yasha.
The BBC reported that after the war began, Mr Patil has been stepping out of his basement only to buy food for his cats. The male jaguar is 20 months old and the female panther is a six-month-old cub, the BBC report further said.
“My big cats have been spending nights in the basement with me. There has been a lot of bombing happening around us. The cats are scared. They are eating less. I can’t leave them,” the 40-year-old told the BBC.
Dr Patil also has three dogs – Italian mastiffs – and tries to raise funds for them through his YouTube channel, which has more than 84,000 subscribers.
Dr Patil belongs to Tanuku in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district. He hopes that the Indian government will allow him to take home all his pets. Last week, Indian student Rishabh Kaushik – a resident of Dehradun – returned to India with his rescued pet dig “Maliboo” as part of central government’s Operation Ganga.