It’s no picnic for the brown bears of Russia

International wildlife charity Born Free, with the support of wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan MBE, has today launched ‘Raising Cubs’ - a new campaign to help protect the lives of vulnerable and orphaned brown bear cubs in Western Russia.

The bears face threats including hunting for sport and trophies, disturbance from people hunting for other wild animals, and—most prevalently—logging, which is rapidly increasing in the country1. Human disturbance causes mother bears to flee for their lives, leaving their helpless cubs alone; sadly, reports indicate that in this region, once disturbed, mother bears do not return to their dens, and the cubs would inevitably suffer and perish.

Born Free is delighted to support the Orphan Bear Rescue Centre – founded in 1995 and nestled in the forests eight hours from Moscow – which works tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate, and prepare orphaned brown bear cubs for release back into the wild.

Bear cubs often arrive at the centre in a critical condition: emaciated, injured, or suffering from pneumonia and hypothermia. The first few days are critical, and cubs are given 24-hour care during which they are bottle-fed every two hours and given a massage after every feed to simulate their mothers’ care.

In an average year, OBRC takes in 10 cubs per year, and to date they have returned more than 240 bears to the wild. However, this year (2020) the centre has been overwhelmed with 18 cubs currently learning the skills they need to survive in the wild. Take Puzha for example—found abandoned in the forest, she was anonymously delivered to a shelter for homeless dogs before arriving at the centre in May. On arrival she was clearly the smallest of all 18 of the rescued cubs, weighing just 4kg. She made no attempts to communicate or engage with the other rescued cubs (a common sign that she was abandoned after leaving her den with her mother) but in the last few months she is now eating with them, walking alongside them and weighs 15kg with an “all clear” from the veterinarian.

Born Free’s campaign ‘Raising Cubs’ is hoping to raise vital funds to help support the cubs currently in care at OBRC, and provide ongoing support for the next influx of vulnerable bear cubs, which are expected in January 2021 following this summer’s breeding season.

Wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan, who is supporting the Born Free campaign, said:

“In 2018, I spent many months at the Born Free-supported Orphan Bear Rescue Centre in Russia. Following the cubs’ journey was fascinating, and really showed me what vital work this centre – the only one of its kind – is doing to protect brown bears. The Raising Cubs campaign to fund this work is crucial to ensure a future for orphan bear cubs.”

For more information visit www.bornfree.org.uk

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