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FOUR PAWS to build new bear sanctuary for former baiting bears in Ukraine

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

  • FOUR PAWS is working with the Ukrainian authorities to end bear baiting and provide an appropriate home for affected bears


February 19 2015 LONDON– International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has launched the construction of a new bear sanctuary for bears rescued from the cruel practice of bear baiting.

Although bear baiting has been banned in Ukraine for almost 15 years, dozens of bears are still used and abused for training hunting dogs. The construction of the FOUR PAWS sanctuary, near the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, aims to at last offer hope to these brutally mistreated animals, which can now  be rescued and given a home that suits the natural needs of their species.


Representatives of FOUR PAWS, the Ukrainian Environment Ministry, and the local council of Yavoriv, presented their plans for the new sanctuary at a joint press conference.


Carsten Hertwig, bear expert at FOUR PAWS: “Most people in Ukraine are not yet aware of the welfare problems associated with keeping bears for baiting, so we want to work with the Ukrainian government to dismantle this so-called “tradition”.  If we can raise public awareness about the cruelty these animals have to suffer, then hopefully we can also bring it to an end.” The animal welfare organisation has also set its sights on two further goals: the construction of the BEAR SANCTUARY near Lviv, and improved enforcement of existing laws.


Brown bears are a protected species in Ukraine, and may not be kept or bred without a licence. The hunting of bears is also forbidden. But the bears’ situation can only be improved in the long term if the government puts stricter controls in place, together with larger fines and stronger punishments for those participating in the illegal trade and the abuse of bears for profit.


Volodymyr Domashlinets, representative for the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, said:  “The problem has at least two aspects. First it has to be legally specified that bear baiting is prohibited. A draft law has already been elaborated with the involvement of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and submitted to the Parliament. Second, law enforcement should be enhanced to control the origin and use of bears kept in captivity. Many baiting bears come from the wild, or from breeding facilities in Russia, where brown bears are not protected by the law and the control should be enhanced. Together with FOUR PAWS, we will actively seek a solution to these problems, and bring an end to the illegal practice of bear baiting.”


For the construction project, FOUR PAWS has managed to establish a partnership with French food manufacturer Royal Canin, which  will actively support the building

of the sanctuary, and the work of FOUR PAWS in Ukraine.


The conflict in the country has caused a series of delays to negotiations over the construction, but now a suitable location has been found. The Environment Ministry and the local forestry board will make a plot of approximately 12 hectares available near the city of Lviv.


Orest Hnyp, Head of Yavoriv District Administration, sees a great chance for his region: “Not only will the new bear sanctuary in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Roztochya provide a suitable home for the bears that have been rescued; it will also invigorate this area. This important project will make a vital contribution to the protection of animals and the environment in our country, and it will also be a boost to both tourism and employment.”


FOUR PAWS estimates there to be between 15 and 20 baiting bears in Ukraine currently. The bears live miserable lives in tiny cages with nothing but a concrete floor beneath them, and they are only released from these cages for training, or to be attacked by hunting dogs in competition. They are usually given insufficient food and water, to make them weaker opponents for the dogs. Most also have their claws removed.


The extreme psychological stress and the many injuries caused by the dogs and the poor keeping conditions mean that most of the bears can only be used for a short time for baiting. They are then often sold to zoos or restaurants as tourist attractions. Some even end up stuffed, as trophies.


FOUR PAWS has been active in Ukraine since 2012. The animal welfare organisation works there to improve keeping conditions for bears, and has also implemented several stray animal projects. To date, FOUR PAWS has been able to rescue three bears from illegal private keeping, and transfer them to BEAR RESCUE CENTRE Nadiya in Zhytomyr. In future, the organisation will also cooperate with the government to fight more strongly against the illegal private keeping of bears in Ukraine.