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FOUR PAWS rescued 6-month-old bear cub Nastia from private handlers


Shocking footage of Nastia, being snatched away from her mother, caused a wave of discontent in Western Europe

Yesterday afternoon a team from the international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS, including experts from the Dancing Bears Park near Belitsa, managed to confiscate bear cub Nastia from its owners in the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia. At the beginning of May the then 4-month-old Nastia was sold by the Lutsk zoo to a private handler, who planned to use it as a tourist attraction in Vinnytsia. The shocking footage of Nastia being snatched away from her mother, made by a FOUR PAWS employee working undercover, spread last Friday and circled the world in a matter of hours. The following wave of protest letters forced the authorities in Ukraine to take measures and to organize a search and rescue mission for Nastia.

“When we found Nastia, her condition wasn’t very good – she was underfed, with serious stomach problems and extremely nervous”, Dimitar Ivanov, manager of the Dancing Bears Park near Belitsa explains. The health check, which was made on spot by the Head of the team, Dr. Amir Khalil, shows, that Nastia should be able to handle the long trip to her new home at the Brown bear rehabilitation centre Synevyr in Western Ukraine.

The question remains, whether Nastia’s mother – also expected to be confiscated and moved to Synevyr – will accept her cub. The footage of their separation showed their strong connection – while two of the animal keepers of the zoo try to force Nastia in a small wooden crate, the mother runs to and fro in her cage and observes helplessly, roaring, as if she’s crying for help. Two months later experts are not sure if this bond still exists. In the wild bear cubs remain with their mothers in their first two years, during which time they acquire all their survival skills, before they begin their self-dependent life. According to FOUR PAWS specialists, this early separation may lead to irreversible consequences for Nastia’s health and behaviour.

Selling animals from zoos to private buyers is illegal in Ukraine. However, Nastia’s case is not unique -  the trade with bear cubs is flourishing in Ukraine. According to Dr. Khalil, the punishment for this criminal action is only 60 Euros, while the price of one bear cub at the black market sometimes reaches 1000 Dollars. According to FOUR PAWS’ information, there are currently between 40 and 80 privately owned bears in Ukraine, that are being used as tourist attractions or for training hunting dogs. FOUR PAWS will urge Ukrainian authorities to establish more severe punishments in order to deter the ruthless animal traders.