FOUR PAWS Continues To Heroically Rescue Animals From War-Torn Ukraine, Including A 20-Year-Old Bear Named Vova That Was Held Captive At A Restaurant

Photos by Svitlana Dmytrenko / FOUR PAWS

Global animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS has successfully rescued and transferred a 20-year-old Ukrainian ‘restaurant bear’ to its BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr near Lviv in Western Ukraine on March 23rd. FOUR PAWS was working on rescuing the brown bear, named Vova, since last November, but his fate was a court matter prior to the outbreak of the war.

It seems he had to endure all of his life in a tiny concrete cage near a recently burned down restaurant in the Khmelnytskyi region, also in Western Ukraine. Vova was not harmed in the fire but his living conditions and safety became even more unstable after the restaurant burned down. Thankfully, his owner decided to release him to the authorities voluntarily, finally making his rescue possible.

Although attacks have now been reported in the west of Ukraine, the team at the bear sanctuary continues to provide the best possible care for all of its rescued bears, and the sanctuary continues to offer a safe place for bears in need.

The transfer of Vova to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr was done by an external transport partner. A local veterinarian accompanied the transport vehicle to check on Vova’s well-being.

“Vova has arrived safely at our sanctuary. We are grateful that the authorities finally made his rescue possible. Bears need to roam around, dig, and swim, not pace back and forth on the same few square meters all of their life,” said Magdalena Scherk-Trettin, who is responsible for bear projects at FOUR PAWS. “Vova’s stereotypical behavior shows that he has been bored and unable to live out any natural behaviors. Our team at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr will now make sure Vova receives all of the care he needs to recover and live a species-appropriate, bear-worthy life.”

Sadly, having bears in private captivity is still legal in Ukraine, however, due to changes in Ukrainian Law, keeping bears and big cats for leisure and entertainment purposes became illegal in November 2021. For this reason, Vova’s keeping became illegal and his fate became the subject of a court decision which the court rejected twice.

After the war broke out in Ukraine, FOUR PAWS was contacted by the authorities and were asked to take Vova into their care as soon as possible.

At the beginning of March, BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr already welcomed seven bears from White Rock Bear Shelter near Kiev, which is run by the FOUR PAWS partner organization Save Wild Fund, in an emergency transfer. As Kiev is heavily affected by the war, a local transport company brought the bears to the FOUR PAWS sanctuary in the safer western part of the country.

BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr provides a temporary home for four of the rescued bears. The three others have since been transferred to bear sanctuaries in Germany.

FOUR PAWS opened BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr to create a species-appropriate home for bears rescued from cruel and catastrophic keeping conditions. A total of 34 bears, including new arrival Vova and the four recently transferred bears from White Rock Bear Shelter, now live on the 20-hectare site.

FOUR PAWS is deeply concerned about the war in Ukraine, and is closely monitoring the developments, especially as attacks have been reported in the western part of the country as well. The staff at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr and the bears are currently safe and doing well given the circumstances.

If you would like to donate to FOUR PAWS to help them continue their incredible rescue work in Ukraine, CLICK HERE!

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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