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A Ukrainian shelter welcomes bears rescued from the front areas

Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv (Ukraine), November 21 (EFE). – A shelter for bears in Lviv helps rescue bears in the frontline area and provides a safe environment for those bears despite the war and power cuts in the country due to the Russian invasion.

A unit of Ukrainian soldiers was inspecting, at the beginning of September, a recently retaken part of the city of Bakhmut -the scene of heavy fighting for months-, when they were surprised by the discovery of a cage with a large brown bear in the courtyard of a building semi-destroyed.

Malnourished and distressed by lack of space and constant shelling, the bear clearly needed help. His owner was nowhere to be found, so he was transported to the “Domazhyr” bear sanctuary near Lviv, in the west of the country.

Several months later, it is evident that Bakhmut, as the bear has been christened, feels at home as he takes a morning walk after breakfast.

“Each one receives about 25 kilos of food a day, mostly vegetables and fruit, but also meat and fish,” explains Andriy Churylo, who helps feed the animals, and hopes that Bakhmut will soon go into hibernation. , as other bears have already done, in the burrows prepared for it by the employees.

“We do everything we can to provide them with a stimulating and stress-free environment,” Olya Fedoriv, ​​the shelter’s marketing manager, told EFE.

Each bear has about an acre of land and a swimming pool, and shelter employees encourage them to stay active by hiding some of their food at various points in their enclosures.

“Obviously it’s not ideal for them, but having been born in captivity, they lack the skills they would need to survive in the wild,” he adds, noting that some are still recovering from the painful aftermath of being mistreated during years.

“How can anyone hurt such a beauty?” she asks, while another bear, Potap, seems to be listening intently.

The sanctuary is located in a forest in the UNESCO-recognized Roztochia Biosphere Reserve and opened in 2016. Since then it has hosted dozens of bears rescued from circuses and hunting dog training centers, where plantigrades they often lived in miserable conditions, undernourished and mistreated.

The refuge offers a series of activities and visits for children and adults in order to sensitize them to the suffering of the 80 bears that are estimated to still remain in captivity in Ukraine.

Together with other NGOs, it has managed to gradually improve animal welfare in the country. Animal circuses have been banned, and hunting dog training centers, once illegal, are now even more difficult to operate.

However, the Russian invasion presents an entirely different challenge.

Apart from Bakhmut, the center housed seven other bears that were urgently transported from a similar shelter near kyiv, when the Ukrainian capital was about to be surrounded by Russian troops.

“Getting a vet with a tranquilizer dart gun, needed to prepare bears for transport, through dozens of checkpoints in a country at war wasn’t easy,” Olya sums up.

Three of these bears were eventually welcomed abroad, like thousands of animals from all over the country, while the other four returned home after the Russian withdrawal from the kyiv region.

Funded by an Austrian foundation and through sales from its cafeteria and shop, the “Domazhyr” shelter has managed to remain financially stable during the war and continue to provide a safe environment for a total of 31 bears.

The sanctuary has limited the number of visitors to make the situation easier to manage in the event of an emergency from a Russian attack, while a small solar panel plant and a generator ensure that the fences remain electrified even in the event of a blackout. .

“Bears are very intelligent and quickly learn not to go too close to fences, but some of the visitors may not be as bright as them,” Olya explains half jokingly. EFE

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