Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Major appeal launched for four orphan bear cubs in Greece and Georgia

3 November 2015

Categories: Bears Campaign News, Homepage News, Rescue News

Mollie King meets baby Ushka (c) Alan Strutt

Ushka needs our help due to his complex needs (c) Alan Strutt

Two of the orphaned cubs in Tbilisi (c) John Knight

The Georgia cubs are being kept at a facility designed for dogs (c) Josh Cura

The Born Free Foundation has launched a major appeal to ensure the care of four orphaned bear cubs, one in Greece and three in Georgia. 

Born Free has highlighted the plight of 10-month-old Ushka, who tragically sustained a broken back and is now paralysed in both hind legs. Ushka is currently under expert care at the Arcturos Bear Sanctuary in the mountains of Northern Greece. 

Ushka was brought to the attention of Born Free during a visit supported by The Saturdays singer, Mollie King, who made an emotional appeal and video for help. The cub sustained serious and life-threatening injuries after being hit by a car. Unable to walk and only with movement in his front legs, young Ushka pulls himself along a smooth, tiled floor as a means to move and play.

Mollie King said: “It was heart-breaking to see Ushka and to see his daily struggles and yet despite all that has happened to him he is the sweetest little bear and deserves all the help we can give him. I hope everyone will join our campaign to help our orphaned cubs.” 

The three other female cubs, in Georgia, were found wandering the streets of Tbilisi following the floods in June this year. The nine-month-old cubs – one of which is named Louisa - have been kept in the municipal dog pound outside the city centre, as the authorities had nowhere else to put them. The kennels are designed for the short-term keeping of stray dogs and are quite unsuitable for bears. These intelligent, inquisitive orphaned bears are subjected to the noise of barking dogs day and night, are at risk of disease, and are severely stressed. The authorities continue to do what they can, but they desperately need to be moved.

Born Free is working with its partners at Arcturos in Greece to expedite the paperwork to enable the rescue and relocation of the three female cubs. Meanwhile, plans are being prepared for a new bear enclosure that will provide a rich, natural environment where the bears can forage for fruits, nuts and grasses.

A team of expert vets, led by Born Free’s Senior Veterinary Consultant, Dr John Knight, are also undertaking a detailed assessment of Ushka to see what might be done to give him a fighting chance of maintaining a satisfactory quality of life. Ushka has a lively and endearing character, and despite his physical injury, enjoys play tug with his blanket and searching for fruits and nuts hidden in his toys.

To enable all this to take place, Born Free has launched an urgent fundraising campaign Bear Me in Mind and is being joined in its effort by The Mayhew Animal Home who called on Born Free to step in and assist the bears in Tbilisi. A special hotline and text messaging service has been set up as this urgent appeal gets underway.

Founder of Born Free, Virginia McKenna OBE, said: “For us it is always the most wonderful moment when we are asked to help with a rescue. One, little ‘Ushka’, has many challenges to face – but we want to help him overcome as many as possible, for as long as possible. The other three, in Georgia, will have a hopeful future if we can get them quickly out of the dog kennels where they languish. Time is of the essence here and we cannot fail them.”

Bears are in serious trouble throughout Europe. Many languish in dysfunctional zoos and circuses and, bizarrely, some countries, like Albania, still have dancing bears. In the wild they are persecuted and often illegally hunted or victims of human/animal conflict in ever decreasing areas of natural wilderness. Born Free is calling for tighter controls, enforcement of laws and more humane solutions to the problems they face. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are an estimated 14,000 brown bears in Europe (excluding Russia). It is estimated that there are just 150 in Greece, and about 450 in Georgia.

In Georgia, brown bears are on the country's ‘Red List’ and protected - and greater efforts are being made to conserve and look after them. However, poaching persists and accidents happen. Born Free is looking to enter discussions with the government on how to enhance the welfare of bears and conservation of this troubled species.

Ushka, Louisa and the two sister bears’ progress will be updated over the coming weeks and during the run-up to Christmas. These four bears have fought for their very survival. It is nothing short of a miracle they have made it this far. Born Free, in partnership with The Mayhew Animal Home, are determined that the New Year will be a much safer and kinder one.

Donate to the Bear Me in Mind appeal

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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