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Ukraine: FOUR PAWS secret mission rescues first baiting bear


In a secret mission yesterday a rescue team from our FOUR PAWS team freed baiting bear Masha. The five-year old female was then transferred to the bear rescue centre Nadiya in Zhytomyr.


The game of cat-and-mouse with the bear baiting lobby concerning Masha is over: after gruelling negotiations we managed to convince the owner of the mistreated bear to hand her over to us. Yesterday’s handover, in remote woodland around 120km from Kharkiv, took place without the approval of the authorities. Our FOUR PAWS team accepted this risk in order to ensure Masha’s safety.


The five-year-old female was living in the grounds of a dog training area near the town of Pavlograd. Her owner had acquired her illegally from animal dealers and used her for years as bait for training hunting dogs. In these brutal exercises dogs are drilled to attack a defenceless, chained bear. It was only for such bear baiting that Masha could leave her tiny cage, which was too small even to sit up in. Normally Bears need a lot of space, the chance to hibernate, and a balanced diet. But Masha had none of this: She is much too thin, her fur is dull. The concrete floor of her cage has badly hurt her paws, and she has chafing on her neck from her collar and the heavy metal chains which she had to wear day in, day out.

© FOUR PAWS l Olena Trofimchuk

We learned of Masha’s miserable existence back in February 2013 and we informed the authorities, which soon confirmed the animal cruelty and charged the owner. But before legal proceedings could start, the bear disappeared without trace. The owner spirited Masha away, but our team of FOUR PAWS didn’t give up. We managed to make contact with him and after a lot negotiating we eventually got him to agree to hand Masha over to us voluntarily at a secret location.


Masha fared well in the FOUR PAWS animal ambulance on the 12-hour, 900-km transfer from Kharkiv in the north-east to Zhytomyr. She was fed apples and fresh vegetables several times by our carers. On arrival in Zhytomyr Masha was examined by vets. She was fitted with a microchip and given the medication she needed. The heavy metal chains were also delicately removed. Masha’s general health is reasonable, but she was very nervous and of course weak. A new life is now beginning for Masha. When she was released yesterday into her 500-square-metre enclosure – designed to resemble a natural habitat, with trees, a pond and places to hide away.


Our team of FOUR PAWS is now seeking a long-term solution for the remaining baiting bears. Masha is just the beginning. There are still about 20 more baiting bears in Ukraine. We want to give all of them a safe future, a life suitable for bears.

© FOUR PAWS l Olena Trofimchuk