FOUR PAWS rescues two brown bears kept as tourist attraction in Ukraine

Dasha and Lelya find forever home at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr


30.10.2019 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has successfully rescued two female brown bears on 29th October in Ukraine and transferred them to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr near Lviv. Dasha and Lelya were previously kept as a tourist attraction at a hotel and restaurant in Skole. They spent most of their lives in a small concrete cage, unable to express their natural behaviours. As the owners plan to sell the site after they closed their business, FOUR PAWS was recently asked by the Ukrainian authorities to take the bears into their expert care. At the FOUR PAWS-owned BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, Dasha and Lelya will begin a new life in a species-appropriate and natural environment.

The team on-site reached the former hotel and restaurant site in Western Ukraine after a two-hour drive from the bear sanctuary. The 13-year-old bears were fed with an inappropriate diet of porridge with sugared milk, bread and sweet loaves. In their small concrete enclosure, they had no access to fresh water or a pond, and no enrichment to engage with. Veterinarian Marc Gölkel from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) examined both bears before the departure to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr. 

“As a result of the poor conditions they have been kept in and lack of enrichment, the bears show stereotypical behaviour; having suffered with severe boredom, they gnaw at the metal bars and lay around lethargically. Bar-biting in combination with inappropriate nutrition has left both bears with dental problems of varying degrees. Apart from that, we didn’t find any major health issues. The bears now have time to rest before we do another detailed medical check in spring.” 

Veterinarian Marc Gölkel from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

Dasha and Lelya arrived safely at their new home. From now on the experienced team at the sanctuary will provide them with all the care they need. The bears will be kept in an adaption enclosure for the time being, but once they have adapted to their new surroundings, they will be released into a big, natural outdoor enclosure.

Transfer of four remaining bears in spring 2020

Dasha and Lelya were kept at the hotel and restaurant site with four other bears – two eleven-year-old bears and their offspring; two cubs which were born in early 2018. Since the bear owners want to sell the site, they agreed to hand over the remaining bears as well. Following the decision of the responsible authorities, the four bears will soon be placed in the care of FOUR PAWS. “According to information we received, other cubs were bred at the location in the past, but unfortunately we do not know the whereabouts of those bears. We cannot rule out the possibility that they ended up at hunting stations as baiting bears, which is common in Ukraine. However, we are still happy that we will be able to end life in captivity for these six bears. This is a result of the good cooperation between FOUR PAWS and the Ukrainian authorities. At our bear sanctuary, the animals can live in species-appropriate surroundings, roam around outside and rediscover their instincts,” says Carsten Hertwig, bear expert at FOUR PAWS. The organisation plans to transfer the four bears still on site in Skole to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr in spring 2020.

14 rescued bears at Ukrainian sanctuary

BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr was officially opened for visitors in October 2017. Including new arrivals Dasha and Lelya, 14 bears rescued from catastrophic keeping conditions now live on the 7.7-hectare site. Once all construction work has been completed over the next few years, FOUR PAWS will expand the bear sanctuary further to include 20 hectares of land and will provide space for up to 30 rescued bears. With the construction of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, FOUR PAWS has created a species-appropriate home for rescued bears, helping the Ukrainian government to enforce the ban on keeping baiting bears in the country. These bears are chained and hardly able to defend themselves in order to train dogs for hunting. In addition, the bear sanctuary provides a home for individual animals from other cruel and inappropriate forms of bear keeping as well.

Read more about our work in Ukraine #SaddestBears

Hannah Baker

Head of Communications UK 

020 7922 7954 / 07966 032 235

7 - 14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR


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