Bear Rescued From Bombed-Out Ukraine Zoo Finds New Home In Scotland

Bear Rescued From Bombed-Out Ukraine Zoo Finds New Home In Scotland

LONDON (AP) — An unlikely refugee from the war in Ukraine — a rare Asiatic black bear — arrived at his new home in Scotland on Friday and quickly took to a meal of cucumbers and watermelon.

The 12-year-old Yampil was named for a village in the Donetsk region where he was one of the few survivors found by Ukrainian troops in the remains of a bombed-out private zoo.

Yampil, who had previously been called Borya, was discovered by soldiers who recaptured the devastated city of Lyman during the Kharkiv counteroffensive in the fall of 2022, said Yegor Yakovlev of Save Wild, who was among the first of many people who led the bear to a new life.

Yampil the bear arrives at his new home in Scotland after his rescue from harrowing circumstances at a bombed-out Ukraine zoo.
Yampil the bear arrives at his new home in Scotland after his rescue from harrowing circumstances at a bombed-out Ukraine zoo.

Five Sisters Zoo via AP

The bear was found in a menagerie that had long been abandoned by its owners. Almost all the other animals had died of hunger, thirst or were struck by bullets or shrapnel and some were eaten by Russian troops. Yampil narrowly missed the same fate, suffering a concussion from a projectile that landed nearby.

“The bear miraculously survived,” said Yakovlev, also director of the White Rock Bear Shelter, where the bear recovered. “Our fighters did not know what … to do with him, so they started looking for rescue.”

What followed was an odyssey that your average bear rarely makes, as he was moved to Kyiv for veterinary care and rehab, then shipped to a zoo in Poland, then to an animal rescue in Belgium, where he spent the past seven months, before landing in the United Kingdom.

Brian Curran, owner of Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, Scotland, said his heart broke when he learned of the plight of the threatened Asiatic black bear.

“He was in terrible condition; five more days and they wouldn’t have been able to save him,” Curran said. “We were just so amazed he was still alive and well.”

The bear was skinny but not malnourished when he was found, said Frederik Thoelen, a biologist at the Nature Help Center in Belgium. He now is estimated to weigh a healthy 440 pounds (200 kilograms), Thoelen said.

The nature center in Belgium, which usually treats injured wildlife and returns them to their natural settings, has taken several animals rescued from the war in Ukraine, including a wolf, a caracal cat and four lions, though those animals had not experienced the ordeal Yampil endured.

It was remarkable how calm Yampil was when he arrived in Belgium, Thoelen said.

The bear was trained in the past two weeks to move from his enclosure to the crate that would transport him across Belgium to Calais, France, then across the English Channel on a ferry to Scotland. Pastries from a local bakery were used for good measure to lure him Thursday into the cage, where he was sedated for the journey.

“We want to use the food that he likes most, and for most bears — and for people also — it’s sweet, unhealthy foods,” Thoelen said.

Thoelen had a sense of the bear’s weight as he drove the crate to the port.

“Every time when we had a red light or a traffic jam, when the bear moved a little bit, you could feel the van moving also,” he said. “You could feel it was a heavy animal in the back of the car.”

Yampil arrived at the zoo about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Edinburgh and immediately made himself at home. He feasted on cukes — said to be his favorite food — and melon, said Adam Welsh, who works at Five Sisters.

The Asiatic black bear is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable to extinction in the wild, where it can be found in central and southern Asia, Russia and Japan. It’s known for the distinctive white crescent patch on its chest that gives it the nickname moon bear. It can live for up to 30 years in zoos.

It’s not clear if the bear will go into hibernation. The winter has been warmer than usual but colder days are on the horizon.

The zoo has other bears, but Yampil is the only Asian bear and unique in other ways.

“We’ve had circus bears, for example, that have been rescued,” Welsh said. “We’ve had bears rescued from places like roadside restaurants where they’ve been used as kind of roadside attractions and been kept in subpar conditions. But this is the first time that we’ve worked with an animal that’s been rescued from a war zone.”

Support HuffPost

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher

At HuffPost, we believe that everyone needs high-quality journalism, but we understand that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive news subscriptions. That is why we are committed to providing deeply reported, carefully fact-checked news that is freely accessible to everyone.

Our News, Politics and Culture teams invest time and care working on hard-hitting investigations and researched analyses, along with quick but robust daily takes. Our Life, Health and Shopping desks provide you with well-researched, expert-vetted information you need to live your best life, while HuffPost Personal, Voices and Opinion center real stories from real people.

Help keep news free for everyone by giving us as little as $1. Your contribution will go a long way.

At HuffPost, we believe that everyone needs high-quality journalism, but we understand that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive news subscriptions. That is why we are committed to providing deeply reported, carefully fact-checked news that is freely accessible to everyone.

Help keep news free for everyone by giving us as little as $1. Your contribution will go a long way.

As the 2024 presidential race heats up, the very foundations of our democracy are at stake. A vibrant democracy is impossible without well-informed citizens. This is why HuffPost’s journalism is free for everyone, not just those who can afford expensive paywalls.

We cannot do this without your help. Support our newsroom by contributing as little as $1 a month.

As the 2024 presidential race heats up, the very foundations of our democracy are at stake. At HuffPost, we believe that a vibrant democracy is impossible without well-informed citizens. This is why we keep our journalism free for everyone, even as most other newsrooms have retreated behind expensive paywalls.

Our newsroom continues to bring you hard-hitting investigations, well-researched analysis and timely takes on one of the most consequential elections in recent history. Reporting on the current political climate is a responsibility we do not take lightly — and we need your help.

Support our newsroom by contributing as little as $1 a month.

Support HuffPost

Read More

Leave a Reply