At the end of June, Four Paws released an undercover video
that showed two keepers at Lutsk Zoo in the Ukraine, ripping a 4-month-old bear cub from its mother and forcing the screaming cub into a tiny box to be sold to traders.
The female bear cub, named Nastia, was seen screaming frantically as she was violently wrenched away and forced into a tiny transport box. Nastia was sold to bear traders in Vinnytsia as a photo animal. After a frantic search and with the help of Ukrainian authorities, Four Paws project leader Dr. Amir Khalil, officially confiscated
Nastia on July 5, 2012 and brought her back to her mother in the Lutsk zoo, where it was hoped they could reunite the two bears.
For the past several weeks, the animal welfare organization has patiently attempted to reintroduce mother and cub without success. "Nastia immediately recognized her mother Masha, and wanted to join her" said the group, "but Masha has shown aggressive tendencies towards Nastia."
Although Nastia has physically recovered from the ordeal which left her anxious, malnourished and suffering from diarrhea, both of the bears remain psychologically damaged by the separation. In a press release issued to Digital Journal, Dr. Khalil said:
Unfortunately we cannot reunite them at this stage, because there is a danger that Masha will hurt her child. Nastia‘s mother is also severely traumatized because of the brutal kidnap. Furthermore mother and child have been separated for weeks. Nastia now has a different scent and we assume that Masha doesn’t recognize her anymore. It is also possible that Masha is pregnant again. An ultrasound scan this coming weekend will bring confirmation.
While the news is not good for the young bear who has already endured so much, the organization is not giving up, and there remains hope on the horizon for both mother and cub. Four Paws is moving ahead with the construction of a new big bear sanctuary for Nastia and Masha in Zhytomyrska.
"They will have much more space, trees to climb and a pond for bathing," said Four Paws, and although "they will initially live in two separated areas," Dr. Khalil still hopes that the pair can be reunited some day. The project founder explained that "Nastia’s life up to now has been a nightmare," and "we will do everything to offer her and her mother the best life possible."
Nastia and her mother will be socialized alongside their own species in the new facility, where Four Paws
plans to rehabilitate and house other rescued bears. The 10,000 square meter sanctuary will be located 159 km west of Kiev; Nastia and her mother will move into the bear sanctuary in early September.
Follow the bear cub's daily journey in The Nastia Diary