Bear and wolf taken to safe haven in Romania as Ukraine rescue operations continue
Bolik the bear and Elza the wolf have been safely relocated from a tourist resort in war-torn Ukraine, to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania.
Bolik and Elza were taken on a 740 mile journey to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary, run by Millions of Friends Association (Asociația Milioane de Prieteni - AMP), where they will join the other 116 bears and five wolves.
The rescue was bravely carried out by ex-UK service man Tom S-Nand his heroic team from Breaking the Chains. Behind the scenes, Hungarian organisation Ebredo Bolygo Alapitvany (Awakening Planet Foundation), funded the first leg of the journey across Ukraine. Local Ukrainian organisations, UAnimals and Wild Animal Rescue International Charity Foundation coordinated and negotiated the rescue.
World Animal Protection and its supporters funded Bolik and Elza’s rescue on the Romanian side to the sanctuary, as well as the animals’ ongoing care.
Bolik the bear is a 15-year old male, and Elza is a female wolf who is seven years old. Both animals were being held in tiny cages in a tourist resort in Chernivtsi which was bombed recently.
In Ukraine, Bolik and Elza had to be lured into their transport cages with food. AMP staff noted that on arrival at the sanctuary, both animals seemed calm and gentle and were comfortable being around people.
Now, they will live in part of a large 69-hectare sanctuary filled with trees to climb, pools to bathe in and other fellow bears and wolves to socialise with. Due to their upbringing in captivity, being released into the wild is sadly not possible.
Cristina Lapis, President of the Millions of Friends Association, said:
“We are so happy to offer Bolik and Elsa the second chance to live free, in a peaceful place, and a natural environment. For years, they lived in dirty little cages, near a restaurant in Cernauti, Ukraine. They had to experience the fire and the sound of bombs before the long journey to get here.
“They now have the chance to face the forest that they never knew. To step on the grass, on the earth, to listen to the wind and the birds singing, to see the sky without bars, and without fear, this is what all living creatures deserve. We only hope that they will have some time to live to recuperate the stolen years.”
Both animals have undergone health procedures that could not be carried out in Ukraine, such as sterilisation, rabies vaccinations and blood tests. Fortunately, a life-threatening tumour was identified on Elza, which has now been removed and she is recovering well.
Marie Chambers, Campaign Manager (Bears), at World Animal Protection said:
“Playing our part in these rescue missions from Ukraine has been a nail-biting experience clouded by uncertainty - but the end result is a happy future for Bolik and Elza. Animals are often the forgotten victims in times of crisis, yet suffer immensely, and have no understanding of the horrors unfolding around them. There is no way to explain to them why they are trapped and surrounded by the frightening sounds and sights of war, through no fault of their own. While things are truly bleak, I am delighted that even amidst the devastation, there is a better life ahead for the animals at the sanctuary, that will now get to live the peaceful lives they deserve to live.”
Just weeks ago, Masha, another Eurasian brown bear, and former circus performer, was brought over from Ukraine, and was taken to the AMP sanctuary. Tragically, the 22-year-old bear suffered a stroke and passed away. Every attempt was made to save her by the team’s vet, but she sadly did not respond to treatment. Masha’s last weeks were spent surrounded by nature with freedom to explore.
World Animal Protection is working through its partner organisation, AMP, which is approached by local charities in Ukraine that identify animals in need of help.
The organisation is calling on their supporters to donate directly to help protect bears such as Masha, but also other wild animals who are trapped in the entertainment industry. The suffering of animals who are exploited for profit is made worse by human-made crises like the Ukraine war, COVID-19, and the climate crisis. Supporters are also encouraged to donate to local organisations.