25 splay-footed received a new home in the Center for the rehabilitation of brown bears, in the National Nature Park “Synevyr” in Transcarpathia.

Often visitors are met here… with dances. But the guests are happy about this only at the beginning. Later they learn how a circus bear Benya acquired choreographic skills in the past. A small bear was placed on a hot iron plate – so Benya learned to raise his paws for people’s fun. Changing the “residence permit” from Kozyatyn of Vinnytsia region to Transcarpathian “Synevyr”, 10-year-old bear, tortured by hunger and pain, gained weight from 270 to 350 kg and became the owner of the forest.

For a bear to perform tricks, one must break his will. This means – to inflict suffering on him, physical pain”, says Yurii Babichyn, head of the ecological and educational department of the National Park “Synevyr”, about the methods of dressing of bears, the consequences of which are treated here. Most of the current “holiday-makers” have suffered from cruelty, but now restore their health and psyche, living in a comfortable semi-free conditions. These places are best for them: the natural conditions, climate and the landscape of Transcarpathian Mizhgirshchyna are perfect for brown bears, and the territory, part of which is covered with a dense ancient forest, is an effective “hospital”, or rather a “sanatorium”.

And although Benya did not get rid of the habits of dancing for the guests in adulthood, after several years in the rehabilitation center he is already somewhat less afraid of people and learned to communicate with other bears. Acquaintance and ability to coexist in the enclosure is one of the stages of the rehabilitation of bears, each of which has a difficult fate. Bears in “Synevyr” are removed from menageries, circuses, recreation complexes and even refueling stations and just trailers, as well as hunting clubs, where they set the dogs on a chained predator, teaching them to hunt.

The first local wards Dury had a short journey – arrived here on November 24, 2011 from an entertainment complex in the Dragobrat valley. In a year, from the mountainous Rakhivshchyna, Vinnie was brought to his comrades-a two-year-old bear, who once, being a baby bear, was found in the forest and kept in fairly good conditions, and then willingly returned to the Center, when the owner learned of its opening. Malysh also was voluntarily transferred here, he was kept in a trailer truck in unsanitary conditions in the Transcarpathian Berehove: the host still obeyed to animal protectors. Such cooperation is positive. Here are the “new vacationers” – the trio Boria, Stefanie and Bury – they came here from Frankivsk region, Sambir, from the local mini-zoo, with the consent of the owner, who realized that in the conditions of the National Park animals will be better. Rosa was taken away from the owners in Vinnytsia region: for five years she was kept in a cage near the highway at a gas station, where the bear was breathing poisonous fumes, felt badly and ate badly. The two-year-old Stealth came from a circus in Rivne and adapted very quickly. But for Kuzma from Kirovohrad, who had a circus and cinematic career, it was more difficult: the pensioner was closed in a dark room, they did not care about him, the bear was depleted and barely seen. By the way, they care about the bearish diet here: the diet for everyone is planned individually by its composition and nutritional content, contains grain products, meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and honey (there is own small apiary here). Of course, the Center will not refuse delicious gifts for its splay-footed “holiday-makers”, philanthropists can find contacts on the pages of the NNP “Synevyr”.

The center in “Synevyr” is the first in Ukraine and the largest in Europe. 25 present splay-footed “holiday-makers” – this is the largest number in the history of the Center. The territory reaches 12 hectares, and in the so-called “large aviary” (and in fact, in the forest) the bears already have an almost natural way of life. A great achievement of the Center and evidence of the success of the rehabilitation program is that animals, most of whom have never been in a wild environment, “recall” natural habits – return their instincts. So, the first was the bear Iryna, who dug out the den in the forest and fell asleep in winter. The respectable lady Iryna here is the oldest 30-year-old animal, who was starving for most of her life, was brought from Khmelnytsk region, where she lived in a cage with a floor of rebar, on which it was difficult even to walk… The nutritious diet, care and suitable territory quickly restored strength of 30 year-old bear. Now the returned by Iryna tradition – to sleep in winter – is supported by 11 bears of the Center, moreover, in the first years, nobody has decided to “suck paw”: the habitual bearish way of life has been destroyed too. Today the splay-footed not only freely walk and play, but also collect raspberries and blueberries for themselves, return skills to climb the trunks and itch about the trees and even form pairs.

A curious case is also connected with bearish romance, which the administration does not like to talk about, but which was positively received by those, who are interested in the life of the Center. So, the year before last, there was a replenishment… by natural way. What, in fact, there should not be: bears are sterilized, because there is no purpose to breed predators, and to return them to nature, unfortunately, is impossible, because they are too connected with the people and they will always back. Nevertheless, in spring the young bear Masha arranged a surprise: she simply led to the fence two small cubs – so to speak, to show the society. Today they have already been given names, and Borya and Nastya are walking in the forest together with their mother. Then a scandal arose next to this sensation. As it turned out, one of the “holiday-makers” showed courage too early: males are usually castrated at the age of 3 years, but the future father turned out to be mature even before reaching this age. In addition, all quarantine cages were occupied by newly arrived bears… In short, a family was formed, and it doubled. It should be noted, though, despite the rules, but the emergence of a new generation is the best evidence of the success of the rehabilitation of bears. And now, in spring, bear tenderness is also being observed here, one can even meet scenes “for adults”, but there wouldn’t be any offspring…

The natives of “Synevyr” are not the only small pupils of the Center in its history: two more cubs were in 2015 just from the customs in Boryspil – the animals were living contraband and had to go by plane to Dubai. But instead of serving as an amusement for the Arab sheiks, the 3-month-old bears were able to grow and study the forest quietly… Misha was also found on the outskirts of the village of Tiachiv district of Transcarpathia, a mother-bear did not come after him, and the animal was taken to “boarding”, where the baby was well received by other bears. The Center replaced the family for a half-year orphan Mishutka in 2013, now the former funny kid – a pretty big playful bear.

One of the most tragic stories is the story of Potap. In the hunting club”Bars” of Lugansk people set the dogs on him. When he was a young bear, he was clothed in a metal collar, which was not replaced when Potap grew up, and so a large non-healing wound was formed on the neck. Specialists of the Center carried out a special operation to save him, for a long time they were treating a bear, and now Potap is for the main thing in “bearish gang”. Only almost a namesake – Potapych, who came from Mykolaiv, could compete with him. Potapych is, fortunately, healthy, has all 650 kg of weight and a loud bass. Among the old-timers of opened in 2011 institution, there is a favorite of the public Bubochka from Kharkiv, which became the third pupil of the Center, and 29-year-old Basya, who had already recovered from a not very happy existence in the state forestry administration in Ternopil region, and soon met at the Center an old friend – a bear Gin, who was also taken away from the local foresters.

“Do I have a favorite? I love them all! But so, everyone with its character, all are different: both externally and characters! Most of all I regret Benya and Potap, such terrible stories, animals have suffered. I’m glad to see that they are already feeling good, so strong, cheerful and remember their bear habits”, says animal farmer Mykhailo Syatynya. In total, except for administration and veterinarian Mykhailo Masley (who, oddly enough, is a bear favorite – animals recognize his voice from afar and come to the fence to communicate), there are 12 people, working in shifts, there are always people here. Today, the Center, whose potential allows the adoption of several more bears, does not plan to expand: the territory is sufficient, but they only care about improving the farmstead. They dream about a quality access road. They have plans to complete the administrative building, where, in addition to the visit center, there will be a stationary room for a veterinarian, and a pantry with food. Also, it is a question of full (and not partial, as now) coverage of the perimeter of the “large aviary” with video surveillance. The biggest problem is veterinary support, because these large animals should have specific diagnostics and treatment are also quite valuable. The National Park cooperates with foreign medics, in particular veterinarians from Berlin, and… the local dentist: several bears have problems with teeth, and they are assisted together with a veterinarian by a doctor, who usually works with people.

In addition to its own biological clock, bears have a schedule, dictated by the people. So, twice a day without delay, they come for feeding, despite the fact that the majority now freely moves the entire 12-hectare territory. For former prisoners of zoos, this is the whole world. It is not without reason that a cage was left in the Center’s territory, where the bear-giant Potapych was brought here, so that people could understand the conditions of detention: the animal could not even turn around in its cage.

Some of the bears with caution got used to even a small aviary, the so-called “playground” with attractions and a swimming pool, in which our “holiday-makers” are willingly bathing. In general, the scheme is as follows: the newly arrived bear goes to the “quarantine” zone (there are 7 such enclosures here), where the specialists of the Center inspect them, especially the veterinarian. Having passed the quarantine, the bear, while alone, walks around the common small enclosure, studies it, plays with logs and other “sports shells,” and to speed up the rehabilitation, employees hide food on the territory for the animal to be active and used to the new environment. Then the Center employees try to acquaint the bears, taking care that the animals were ready for this and there were no conflicts. When everything is all right and the balance is found, the bear gets a ticket to the forest – into the “big aviary”, where it returns to natural behavior. That, in fact, is the goal of the Rehabilitation Center – stopping the suffering, caused by people, return the animals the greatest possible freedom and a decent life. On which, in fact, deserves every creature, and a bear, who in fact should not dance for anyone…

Text: Alla Hayatova

Photo: Sergii Gudak

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