Rescued Bears Rushed to Safety From Kyiv, Ukraine

They've been moved to a sanctuary in the western part of the country.

bear rescue in Kyiv
Rescuers load a bear near Kyiv, Ukraine.

Four Paws

Seven rescued bears recently had to flee their shelter near Kyiv in Ukraine as the situation in the area grew increasingly dangerous.

The bears were residents at White Rock Shelter in the Kyiv region and were brought to the Bear Sanctuary Domazhyr, across the country in western Ukraine. The sanctuary is operated by Four Paws International, a global animal welfare organization. Four Paws organized the transfer as the shelter in Kyiv evacuated its remaining staff. The organizations worked with an external transport company to move the bears.

“While we don’t have many details, we do know that the bears were transported in two trucks leaving at separate times,” Claire LaFrance, head of communications for Four Paws International, tells Treehugger. “The first truck with five bears left on Friday and took roughly 24 hours to get to the sanctuary. The second truck with two more bears fared better with a 10-hour drive. Both trucks had to stop multiple times at checkpoints and roadblocks.”

The first truck moved male brown bear Synochok, female Himalayan brown bear Chada, female Himalayan black bear Malvina, and two cubs, Popeye and Aska. The second truck had male brown bear Myhasyk and female brown bear Lyubochka.

brown bear rescued in Kyiv
Brown bear rescued in Kyiv.

Four Paws

“The bears are healthy and all of them have already woken up from hibernation before they were moved, just like some of the bears here in the sanctuary,” Ihor Nykolyn, director of Bear Sanctuary Domazhyr, tells Treehugger. “The two cubs did not hibernate, which is quite common for captive bears of young age. We have prepared everything for their arrival and they will receive the care that they need by our experienced team.”

The sanctuary currently is home to 36 bears. Although there have been some air attacks reported in the western part of the country where the sanctuary is located, LaFrance says their Four Paws colleagues and the bears are safe and doing well, under the circumstances.

“An evacuation of the 36 bears therefore does neither seem necessary nor logistically actionable at this point of time,” LaFrance says. “Furthermore, we are closely monitoring the situation of zoos and other facilities that keep and care for wild animals. We are in close contact with our partners that also run wild animal sanctuaries in the country to evaluate their needs and what support we might be able to provide them with.”

Finding Safety and Resources

bear cub at sanctuary in Ukraine
A bear cub makes itself at home in western Ukraine.

Four Paws

Four Paws started working in Ukraine in 2012, assisting stray animals. Since then, the organization’s stray care team has provided veterinary care to 30,000 stray dogs and cats.

The organization opened an office in Kyiv and the sanctuary in 2017, creating a home for rescued bears. Four Paws worked to end the use of bears and wolves in Ukraine in the practice of bear-baiting, where hunting dogs are released on a tied animal in order to train their hunting skills. In April 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law banning the use of bears and wolves in this practice. Four Paws works with officials to enforce the law and care for animals seized from inappropriate private ownership situations.

Currently, the organization is also working with local partners to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing with pets. They’re offering vaccinations, microchipping, and medical treatments, as well as food, leashes and harnesses, transport boxes, and temporary accommodations and resources for those in Ukraine crossing the border with pets. (Four Paws is accepting donations to help with those efforts.)

“We are deeply concerned about the war in Ukraine, and we are closely monitoring the developments. Our thoughts are with everyone in the region - humans and animals alike,” LaFrance says. “We are staying in contact with our Four Paws colleagues in the country and empathise with all their families. Their health and safety are of the utmost importance to us.”

View Article Sources
  1. Claire LaFrance, head of communications for Four Paws International

  2. "The Suffering of Baiting Bears," FOUR PAWS in US. 18 June 2018.

  3. "FAQs on the Situation in Ukraine," FOUR PAWS International. 8 March 2022.