Bears in Ukraine
Our goal to end bears living in private households
Although owning bears is forbidden according to the Berne Convention, there are around 400 bears held as pets in the Ukraine – sometimes in terrible living conditions. The Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V. and our local partner organisation ECO-HALYCH are working hard to improve the current situation and in the long run ban the ability to own bears as pets.
There are various bears suffering in the Ukraine due to their living conditions. To change the situation once and for all, the WTG and ECO-HALYCH have expanded the existing bear sanctuary in the Halych national park by building another enclosure to be able to provide a better life for even more animals. We additionally try to raise awareness about bears nationally.
Being able to move and relocate the „Chersonbears“ (to read more on this click „expand“ above) sent an important message to the public and raised awareness for animal welfare and the situation of the bears in Ukraine. Nevertheless, there are still an estimated 400 bears held in captivity because there are not enough sanctuaries to accommodate all of these animals. Releasing the bears back into the wild is simply not possible as they have no chance of survival. After all, they have not only lived in captivity for years, sometimes their whole life, but have also spend their last years surrounded by humans – any fear or respect is long gone which in turn can make them dangerous to the public.
Together with our partner organisation ECO-HALYCH we are presently working on improving the bears’ current living conditions. Our overall aim is the end of private ownership of bears as pets in Ukraine!
Creating a database
There is no reliable data on the amount of bears, and therefore their living conditions, in private households. Thus, one important step of our work is to create a data base that lists all bear owners in the country. Collecting this kind of information is the only way to in turn plan and change anything required to improve the welfare of the animals and additionally enables us to see where help is needed urgently. To collect the data, our local colleagues are driving around the whole country to search for bear owners. A lot of the public is actually supporting them in doing so as, thanks to us raising awareness of the issues, they have started to learn more about bear welfare and the conditions they are kept in.
Critical: Collaborating with the government
To successfully run this project a close cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities is of utter importance. An important fragment of this is a signed declaration between ECO-HALYCH and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources that includes the following:
- ECO-HALYCH and the ministry are working together to end pet ownership of bears
- To reach this goal, the work of ECO-HALYCH is officially supported by the ministry which simplifies the work overall, but especially when trying to visit private households
- Both sides are communicating regularly and truthfully about the topic of bears
Furthermore, ECO-HALYCH is also part of a group that is working on creating a law on owning wildlife as pets. The Berne Convention technically does protect these bears and forbids anyone from owning them as pets (Article 6), however, there are certain exceptions that allow these animals to be owned after all (Article 9). And these exceptions are exactly what the Ukraine uses to justify handing out licenses that allow people to get bears – but there are barely any requirements needed to pass. To this day, the licensing process has not been done correctly, which means most licenses technically are not valid and the bears are held as the owner seems fit. Aim in updating the law is therefore to not only set higher requirements, such as regular veterinary check-ups and having to build suitable enclosures, but also to introduce a system that hands out these licenses appropriately.
Sensitising the owners of the bears
Visiting the owners of the bears does not only offer the chance to educate them and raise awareness, but also allows for a bond of trust to be slowly built. As many owners lack basic knowledge on how to keep these animals, documents have been created that list the necessary information on the basic needs of the bears and how to improve the living conditions, but also inform on what will happen if laws are broken. The general aim is to convince the people to sign up to the data base for bear owners voluntarily.
It is currently quite difficult to keep up with the much needed veterinary check-ups of the animals as there are not enough qualified vets in the country. Therefore, we are working on creating a network of Ukrainian vets that are interested in learning about how to treat bears and would be open to complete further training on this.
Taking a look into the future
All these measures are just the start of our probably years-long work in the Ukraine to improve the welfare of privately owned bears. In the future we want to also microchip all bears and spay all male animals. To do this, Ukrainian vets will be trained by experts in the field of bear medicine and become officially qualified to treat the bears. This way we are also able to reduce the illegal trade and breeding as well as the number of bears kept in captivity naturally. For the confiscated animals of owners that are not following the rules, we are planning on building more enclosure for them to spend their life species-appropriately.