Hollywood actress Hayden Panettiere funded the construction of a new enclosure for a gorilla at a Ukrainian zoo after seeing the cramped conditions during a recent visit.

The Nashville star has been spending a lot of time in the country with her Ukrainian fiance Wladimir Klitschko, and she bonded with Tony the gorilla during a trip to Kiev Zoo.

However, she worried the pen he lived in was too small for the large animal, so she paid to have a new area built to house her primate pal.

In a message posted on her blog, Panettiere writes, "Over the past few years Kiev, Ukraine has become a second home to me... During one of my more recent trips I visited the Kiev Zoo for the first time... (And) there was one animal in particular with whom I formed a special bond... I met Tony the Gorilla... I stood, facing this creature with the strength of 1,000 men,separated by nothing but a thin wire fence. Suddenly the most amazing thing happened, he walked over, sat down in front of me and stared into my eyes... He took one of his massive fingers, stuck it through the fence and gently, as if I were made of glass, touched my cheek, then my nose, and finally my lips...

"Each time I walked away from his cage I realised how ridiculously small his enclosure was for such a large animal... It looked like a prison cell... So I set out upon a mission to change this and rebuilt Tony the Gorilla's home. Not only did I do it for Tony, a deeply smart animal forced to only see the sky through bars for the past 16 years of his life, but for the people of Kiev who spend their hard earned money to take their families to the zoo for a great experience!... My hope is that Tony and his new habitat can bring a moment of comfort and joy to the people who visit him."