(Click here to watch and listen to the video version of this blog entry)
As someone who loves animals, seeing so much damage done to a wildlife centre makes me a mix of sad and angry. This video, shared on February 25, 2022, showed the result of Russian shelling on a small Ukrainian Zoo.
Here is how I geolocated the exact place where the footage was recorded.
As it is a bit hard to fully explain the imagery of an entire video I decided to capture several frames to show on this tutorial.
We can see how it starts with a cream coloured building with big windows, then the person recording it pans up and shows a brick building above it, quite tall and almost like a tower, then we move forward and see that the initial building connects to an outside enclosure with green frames and (probably) plexiglass. As we go around the corner we can see some sort of green gazebo and a tree against the enclosure. The enclosure keeps going and the person shows another building above it. There seems to be some sort of entrance with a door, this could be for staff members or for visitors to see the animals in their indoors enclosure. Finally we can also observe how there is a similar enclosure on the left with the green frames and the plexiglass again.
Now that we have observed the video we need to get as much information from the captions, regarding location, as possible. Google translate is quite good for that so we just need to select it all and translate from Ukrainian to English (or whatever other language you understand).
So now we know that this is an Ecopark. This means it likely much smaller and with less animals than a Zoo. Might make it easier for us to navigate around it.
Let’s isolate the Ukrainian words for “Feldman Ecopark” and then use google maps to find the location. Using English would probably give me the exact location anyway but I always like to use the native language.
“Feldman Ecopark” = “Фельдман Екопарк”
Google maps gives us an idea of the area that the Feldman Ecopark covers.
It is quite a big park and we want to know the exact coordinates. I decide to check out the website of the Ecopark and see if I can spot a map. Most zoos and similar facilities will have one, usually indicating where each animal can be found.
At a quick glance at the damaged enclosure I would guess that I am looking for a small mammal, possibly a primate due to the wooden structures found inside. Maybe a lemur or a small new world monkey species.
Finding the website is easy as it is just on the google maps search result below.
Once in the website we just need to scroll down the page a bit to immediately find the map of the park.
The map is quite small at first sight but it could be due to the website design. To get the original image we just right click on it and select “Open image in new tab”. It’s a bit bigger but still not great and on top of it the legend is not in English so we might have some trouble.
Let’s at least see if we can spot any small mammals that could belong in the destroyed enclosure. There’s quite a promising area at first glance, highlighted in red below.
Knowing that it would probably be asking too much I still tried to see if there was any google street view inside the Ecopark. If you grab the little yellow person (pegman) and hover it around the area you are interested in it will either show a straight line indicating streetview (visible at the bottom left of the image) or blue dots indicating panoramic photos. There is no google street view inside the Ecopark but there are a few images that people have submitted that could be useful.
I zoomed in the area that felt the most likely to be based on the map we found at their website and select the (only) panoramic photo. The green structures seem very similar but there are still some areas I can’t quite see. We can notice that at the bottom of the screen it tells us when the image was captured. In this case in 2014. A lot of improvements and changes might have happened in the meanwhile.
Time to use an extra trick, Youtube! If there is one thing I know is that people love to record animals in zoos. If we can find a recent video we might be able to match a few more things.
So we go to Youtube and just search for “Фельдман Екопарк” (that stand for Feldman Ecopark in case you forgot). The first result is as good as any. It was uploaded 2 years ago and has almost 24min of footage. We might get lucky.
And on minute 2:57 what do we see? The same structure from the first seconds of the video with the damage!
If you go forward a few minutes you will also see what animals belong to the enclosure, capuchin monkeys. So I was right when I said it would probably be a small mammal and most likely a primate.
If you go a bit back you’ll see that the first building, the cream coloured one just before the green enclosure, contains meerkats.
Now the question in my head is “Were they vicious meerkats plotting to invade Russia and Putin had to send his troops here to destroy their little house?”, “Were they being trained as kamikaze bombers against the Kremlin and had to be stopped?”, “Are there an alien species disguised as cute monkeys plotting to take over the world and Putin had some special intel and is in fact saving us all?”. We might never know.
Back to our comparison.
Below you can see a side by side view of this area on the two videos. On the left the most recent video and on the right the Youtube video. A perfect match.
If we can keep on going we’ll also see the tree that we had spotted before.
Afterwards the person recording the Youtube video goes in a slightly different direction but if we keep on watching (and fast forwarding) we can spot, almost at the end of the video, the green gazebo, next to the capuchin monkey enclosure.
Now we have enough to triangulate it all on google maps. In yellow we have the meerkat enclosure, in green the capuchin monkey enclosure and in red the gazebo.
The coordinates that I have added to the database are: 50.101969, 36.280121.
After my findings were reviewed they were added to the Russian – Ukraine map by the Centre for Information Resilience and can be seen below. The map has since been moved to EyesOnRussia.org.
And that was it! I only needed Google Translate, Google Maps and Youtube to find the exact coordinates where a video was recorded.
I hope this tutorial was informative. One does not need a lot of tools to do great things in OSINT & GEOINT, just a bit of thinking and dedication.
Thank you for reading!