Bears Leo and Melanka rescued after 14 years in captivity in Ukraine

Bears Leo and Melanka being rescued before being transported to Bear Sanctuary Domazhyr, Ukraine, © Svetlana Dmitrenko | FOUR PAWS
Bears Leo and Melanka being rescued before being transported to Bear Sanctuary Domazhyr, Ukraine, © Svetlana Dmitrenko | FOUR PAWS

Brown bears Leo and Melanka have spent 14 years in small concrete cages at the presidential residence of Syniogora in the village of Huta in Ukraine.

Animal welfare organization Four Paws rescued the two brown bears and brought them to their bear sanctuary Domazhyr in Western Ukraine on Tuesday.

Multiple Ukrainian presidents have visited the residence for meetings, holiday retreats or hunting, and have witnessed the cruel keeping of Leo and Malenka.

After years of negotiations, Four Paws finally convinced the responsible authorities to take the two bears to their sanctuary.

14 years on concrete floors
In 2006, the then cubs Leo and Melanka were brought to the presidential residence of Syniogora. They were kept in a small, dirty enclosure, without any vegetation or activities to engage their natural behaviors.

In addition to the lack of any stimulus, their food and water containers were filthy. Both bears spent every day on concrete floors, without protection from the sun or rain.

“Leo and Melanka have arrived safely at their new home. They were vaccinated and chipped before departure and will receive a thorough medical examination once they have settled in,” Ihor Nykolyn, site manager at the sanctuary, said.

“As a result of the poor conditions they have been kept in and lack of enrichment, both bears are showing stereotypical behavior. Now they are being given time to rest and will receive all the care they need after the years of neglect they had to endure,” he added.

80 bears live in cruel captivity
According to Four Paws, an estimated 80 bears still live in cruel captivity across Ukraine, most of them as visitor attractions near restaurants and in circuses and up to 20 on hunting stations.

Four Paws wants the responsible authorities to effectively enforce its existing laws against cruel bear keeping across the country.

The private keeping of bears was forbidden by law in Ukraine in 2011 unless the owner has official permission from the authorities and keeps the bears in conditions that meet their biological and individual needs.

Due to a severe lack of enforcement, bears are still traded and bred. “Melanka gave birth multiple times in the past. Unfortunately, we do not know the whereabouts of those bears and cannot rule out the possibility that they might have even ended up at hunting stations as baiting bears to train hunting dogs,” Nykolyn said.

“Sadly, bears in Ukraine continue to suffer because the law is neither enforced effectively nor appropriate punishments administered,” he continued.

The bear sanctuary now has 19 bears, including Leo and Malenka.

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