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FOUR PAWS saved two brown bears from a future of cruelty in a Ukranian bear baiting station

The two bears love their outdoor enclosure and especially the pool.
© © FOUR PAWS | Volodymyr Shuvayev

Update: Julia and Zoya are enjoying their new life to the fullest 

The two brown bears recently rescued by FOUR PAWS are now getting over their ordeal of having to live in appalling conditions, shut in tiny cages on the back of an old truck. Their owner, who wasn't able to feed the bears anymore, was even thinking of selling them to a bear baiting station, where they would have been illegally and cruelly abused as bait to train hunting dogs. Thankfully, we could save them just in the right moment. Julia and Zoya are now already enjoying their new life in the BEAR RESCUE CENTRE Nadiya, as our latest pictures show.

What's more refreshing than stay in the water for hours. Julia and Zoya, our two bears, know how to enjoy their new life to the fullest.
© © FOUR PAWS | Volodymyr Shuvayev

FOUR PAWS rescuing brown bears - Zoya and Julia in Ukraine
© © FOUR PAWS | Volodymyr Shuvayev

Zoya and Julia rescued from captivity in Ukraine

FOUR PAWS have carried out an emergency rescue mission of two female brown bears in Belogorodka near the capital city Kiev.  The bears were kept in small, cramped cages on a truck by their owner who  could no longer look after the ten-year-old  bears. When the Ukrainian Ministry of Environment heard about this, they approached FOUR PAWS for help. FOUR PAWS needed to act quickly, as the owner  had already fixed a price to sell the bears and was in contact with bear baiting stations, where  the animals are subjected to illegal and cruel ‘hunting’ training for dogs.

In just a few days the FOUR PAWS team organised the pickup and transfer of the two bears to the nearby BEAR RESCUE CENTRE Nadiya in Zhytomyr. An already existing enclosure was quickly altered to temporarily hold the animals and the construction of a new additional adaption area for Julia and Zoya was ordered. FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig expressed his relief  that the bears are now safe. “We’re happy to have been able to save Julia and Zoya from life at a bear baiting station. Here in Nadiya we already have a female, Masha, who was used for years as bait for training hunting dogs. In 2013 we carried out a dangerous operation to free her and transfer her to Zhytomyr.”

Julia and Zoya’s owner was cooperative during the handover, and was relieved to give up the bears. It is still unclear as to where the bears originated. One may have been from a Russian travelling circus, and the other abducted directly from the wild. The owner previously worked as an animal trainer in a circus.

Hertwig reported that “Julia and Zoya both have wounds and scarring to their faces, probably from the bars of the cages, and they’re both showing severe behavioural disorders. Unfortunately, we also have reason to assume that Zoya’a sight is impaired.” The bears have been recovering well from the transfer to the BEAR RESCUE CENTRE. However, the enclosure where the bears are due to live currently has only one inner box, which has made it challenging to accommodate the animals for their adaption period. For now, Zoya remains in the inner box while Julia stays in the outdoor area.

“Zoya seems to be cautious and probably feels more comfortable in the inner box. Julia was much more confident and has already been exploring before  retreating to the den based in the outdoor area. We hope that the new adaption area will help the bears settle in their new surroundings”, said Hertwig.

The experienced team on site are watching the bears very closely and a medical check will be carried out as soon as  is possible. As soon as the adaption area is completed, the professional bear management can be started. “It’s then the animal keepers will be able to keep the bears in a separate area while they clean the outdoor enclosure and prepare enrichment objects for the animals. Only when we can be sure about the condition of Zoya’s sight,  will we be able to tell if it is possible to socialize the bears at a later stage or whether Zoya needs  an enclosure for herself.” said Hertwig.

The request by the Ukrainian Ministry of Environment to intervene in this case is a clear endorsement of FOUR PAWS’ expertise in rescuing and caring for bears.  For years, FOUR PAWS has been committed to ending the illegal private ownership of bears in the Ukraine, and is working hard to give rescued bears a new local home. In April 2015, FOUR PAWS signed a cooperation agreement for the construction of a 12-hectare bear refuge in western Ukraine, near Lviv. The new BEAR SANCTUARY is due to open in Spring 2016, offering former baiting bears a species-appropriate place to live.

Julia and Zoya have now been spared a cruel life of having to fight with dogs at a bear baiting station but many other bears are still suffering in the Ukraine. “Dozens of brown bears are abused as tourist attractions outside restaurants, or as bait for training hunting dogs. The ban on bear baiting – recently passed by the Ukrainian parliament – has let us do something wonderful here, but we’re still very reliant on the government’s help. We’re calling for strict enforcement of the new law, as only then will we be able to free the remaining 20 or so baiting bears”, said Hertwig.


Please continue to give generously as we still need considerable funds to help pay for the additional enclosure needed to house both bears!

Update, June 22, 2015: Two bears are in urgent need of help


On June 22nd FOUR PAWS received an official request from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Ressources of Ukraine concerning the rescue of two 10 year old, female bears (Julia and Zoya) that are living in very miserable conditions in illegal private captivity near Kiev.


The owner, is not able to cover the costs for the bears anymore, and is willing to give away his bears, and asked the Ministry and several local NGOs for help. The Ministry contacted FOUR PAWS and asked us to rescue the bears immediately, though there is “an extremely high risk” that both bears will be sold to illegal baiting stations.


According to the owner there are already several offers from owners of such stations but because he loved his animals he has refused these offers – till now. In fact, the financial incentive to sell the bears is high, which is why the Ministry asked FOUR PAWS to intervene immediately and to prevent the bears from being sold.


© FOUR PAWS 2015

FOUR PAWS has currently only very limited capacity to rescue bears in Ukraine, and there is currently only one free enclosure at the BEAR RESCUE STATION Nadiya. Originally, this enclosure was supposed to be kept free for the rescue of one or two baiting bears that can be freed before the construction works for the new baiting bear sanctuary are finished.


However, as there is a high risk of the bears being sold, FOUR PAWS decided to rescue these two bears. The keeping conditions on site are very appalling: both bears are sitting in two tiny rotten cages on a truck bed where they can't stand upright or lie down comfortably. FOUR PAWS will do everything to rescue these two bears and transfer them to BEAR RESCUE STATION Nadiya as soon as possible.


Furthermore FOUR PAWS calls on the Ministry to finally enforce the legal ban on bear biating and shut down all stations that are still keeping bears and other wild animals for the training of hunting dogs. FOUR PAWS will shortly establish a new BEAR SANCTUARY for the remaining mistreated 15-20 baiting bears in Ukraine.

Watch the video of Zoya and Julia's rescue from the back of a truck