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Ukraine bear cub Nastia moves into new home


Tug of war: Lutsk zoo refuses to handover mother Masha to FOUR PAWS, new talks with Mayor to follow

This morning FOUR PAWS transferred the bear cub Nastia, rescued from the claws of uncaring animal traders, from the Luts´k zoo to her new home in Zhytomyr, 159 kilometres west of Kyiv, Ukraine. With the support of the French animal welfare organization 30 Millions d’Amis and generous donations from all over the world, FOUR PAWS has constructed a new 6,500 square metre bear rescue centre in Ukraine.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

Nastia is in good health and now fully enjoying her new life in a safe and free environment appropriate to her species needs. The transfer went smoothly, the little bear was not anesthetised: To the delight of the FOUR PAWS team of vets and experts, she was lured into the transport cage with her favourite food – grapes and bread soaked in honey. 

For Nastia´s mother, Masha, the situation proved more difficult – in fact, the head of the Ukraine project of FOUR PAWS, Dr. Amir Khalil, talks about “a real tug of war, frustration and clear obstruction on part of the zoo directors”. A few days before they had agreed to a transfer, then suddenly Luts’k zoo refused to cooperate, obviously because they want to benefit from Masha being pregnant. Her unborn cub has already been sold to animal traders, and FOUR PAWS can prove this by means of video footage. In tough and tiring negotiations, Dr. Khalil tried until the last minute to convince the directors of the zoo, but to no avail. However, in a tense but ultimately amicable meeting with the Lutsk´ Mayor Mykola Romaniuk that followed the morning talks with the zoo, it was decided to resume negotiations for the transfer of Masha in the coming days.

“I am optimistic that future negotiations with Mayor Romaniuk will lead to a good end for Masha”, says Dr. Khalil. ‘’He was obviously misinformed about the intentions of the Luts’k Zoo. Once he became aware of the real situation and the plans of the zoo to sell the new bear cub, he was shocked and is now absolutely eager to resolve the situation in a positive way in terms of animal welfare. We also experienced great support from the Ukraine media that were on site covering the transfer.”

On May 2012 Nastia was sold by the Luts’k zoo to ruthless animal traders in Vinnytsia and brutally snatched from her mother. In June, FOUR PAWS released a shocking video showing the then four-month old bear cub crying loudly whilst being forced into a transport box that was much too small. Her mother ran panic stricken to and fro in her cage and became extremely stressed as the little bear was then loaded in to a car ( Dr. Amir Khalil officially confiscated her on July 2012 and brought her from Vinnytsia back to her mother in the Luts’k zoo ( There both animals were cared for and protected around the clock by FOUR PAWS members. At the same time FOUR PAWS constructed the FOUR PAWS Bear Rescue Centre Nadiya in Zhytomyr. „Nadiya“ is Ukrainian for „hope“.

The journey from Lutsk to Zhytomyr took three hours. Nastia moved into the new enclosure with plenty of space, trees to climb and a pond to swim in. The young bear cub went out of the transport box immediatly. For the first time in her life, Nastia jumped into the water. Then she used the large space of the new enclosure to run fast. „We have waited a long time for this wonderful moment“, said Dr. Khalil. „Finally Nastia  can live  a beautiful life appropriate to her needs. She is in a safe place now and FOUR PAWS will care for her for the rest of her life.“

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

Helmut Dungler, founder and CEO of FOUR PAWS, is talking about a big success of his organization: “It is touching to follow Nastia´s first steps into freedom. And I am happy that we succeeded in bringing the little bear´s suffering into a happy end. Furthermore, we managed to raise public awareness for the important issue of animal welfare in Ukraine."

Nastia and Masha are two of a total of six abused Ukraine bears rescued by FOUR PAWS in the last few months. Selling animals from zoos to private buyers is illegal in Ukraine. However, the trade in bear cubs is flourishing in Ukraine. “Although selling a zoo animal to a private buyer is illegal in Ukraine, the punishment for this criminal action is only 60 Euros”, says Dr. Khalil. “We urge the government to strengthen the law and to establish more severe punishments in order to deter the ruthless animal traders.”

There are about 80 bears living in very poor captive conditions across Ukraine. Many are living in small cages next to petrol stations, restaurants or hotels and have to perform tricks to entertain tourists. The animal welfare organization plans to rescue further suffering bears in Ukraine and offer them a life appropriate to their needs. The new Bear Centre in Zhytomyr will offer a new home, not only for Nastia and Masha, but also for at least two other Ukrainian suffering bears.

Watch Nastia´s story and be part of her first steps into a better life.

FOUR PAWS has many years of experience of looking after brown bears and already runs three sanctuaries for bears in need in Austria, Bulgaria and Germany.