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Emergency Help for the Ex-President’s 5 Bears

Over the last few days a FOUR PAWS team has given assistance and improved the situation of five brown bears living on the grounds of the winter residence of Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych. We provided the bears with fresh fruit, vegetables and water.


The bears are kept in conditions that fall far short of what is appropriate for the species, so these had to be improved right away. A female lives with her three cubs in a very small and dark cage. The male is kept separately. Both cages are full of waste, and the floor has been turned to mush by the heavy rain of the last two weeks.


Residence staff have struggled to look after the bears properly. When our team arrived last Thursday, the bears didn’t even have water to drink. On top of this, the current political turmoil means we can’t know if the situation will remain like this or whether in the future there will be anyone at all who can look after the bears.

Since the bears are the property of the state, rather than the personal property of the ex-president, FOUR PAWS is now in contact with the director of the presidential residence to offer long-term assistance. The next step would be to improve the construction of the enclosure, and essentially to work towards getting the bears a larger enclosure within the grounds. FOUR PAWS could support this project. Also, the male ought to be neutered. We have found out that the female has already bred several times, with the young being sold.


Trading in bear cubs is illegal in Ukraine. Brown bears are protected by law, and species-inappropriate keeping is banned. However, the political situation is making it difficult to enter into definitive discussions with decision makers. FOUR PAWS will maintain its efforts.

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In his luxurious winter residence in the Ukrainian Carpathians, the ex-president of the Ukraine also kept bears. The FOUR PAWS team is now on their way to administer first care to the animals left behind.  


The discharged Ukrainian president, Viktor Janukowitsch, not only left his ostentatious estate near Kiev, he apparently left animals too; boars, horses, pheasants and five bears, including three bear cubs were left behind.


Local animal welfare organizations asked FOUR PAWS for help. Currently the animals, which are in a relatively good condition considering the circumstances, are still being taken care of by the former employees of Janukowitsch. FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig, who coordinates the first care of the bears says, “This can change quickly. It is to be feared that the bears will be sold, especially the bear cubs who are in danger of ending up in an unsuitable environment again.”


The bears, whose original home is still unclear, were kept in cages that were far too small. A single male bear was kept in one cage, while another one contained a female bear with her three cubs.


Today, a FOUR PAWS emergency rescue team including bear expert Annika Luerssen are on their way to get an idea of the circumstances and the condition of the bears. They will provide them with food and also try to find a long-term solution for all of the animals,

FOUR PAWS frees bear cub Nastia from ruthless animal traders in Ukraine

This summer, FOUR PAWS, with the support of Ukrainian authorities, freed bear cub Nastia — who had been illegally sold by the Ukraine’s Lutsk Zoo to animal traders — and brought her back to her mother.


In May 2012, the then four-month-old female bear cub was brutally snatched from her mother and forced into a transport box that was much too small. Animal traders had bought her for use as a tourist attraction: they could pose with the baby bear for a small fee. Video footage documents the cruel kidnapping. Throughout the disturbing offense, the bear cub screamed continuously and tried to resist her tormentors, while her mother ran to and fro in her cage, panic stricken.

Upon her rescue, FOUR PAWS’ project leader and veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil examined Nastia on site in his mobile animal rescue ambulance.

“She is very anxious, malnourished and suffers from diarrhea,” said Dr. Khalil. “However, she is stable enough to be taken with us.” Nastia’s rescue was a very touching moment for the whole team. “I was horrified to see the cruel treatment of Nastia and I am very relieved that we could rescue her. But there is still so much work for us to do.”

Although Nastia was saved by FOUR PAWS, the question remains whether she will be recognized and again accepted by her mother. She has been placed  in a cage next to her mother, and FOUR PAWS experts are watching both bears closely in order to decide whether they can be reunited.


The road to recovery will be a long and hard one. But FOUR PAWS will help Nastia all the way. Her enclosure at the zoo will definitely be a temporary solution, since the zoo is desolate. FOUR PAWS will try to get mother and baby to a species-appropriate environment as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the volunteers and the bear experts are cleaning and improving the enclosures to make their temporary home acceptable.


Nastia’s case is not unique. Sadly, 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 75 dollars,” 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.”

In the last few months, FOUR PAWS, together with the Ukrainian authorities, has rescued four bears who were living in terrible conditions.