Bear found in abandoned Ukrainian zoo arrives at new home in Scotland

The Asiatic Black Bear was discovered by soldiers in 2022 following five months of Russian occupation.

A bear that was rescued from an abandoned zoo in Ukraine has arrived at his new home in West Lothian.

The Asiatic Black Bear was discovered by soldiers in October 2022 following five months of Russian occupation in the village of Yampil, in Ukraine.

Out of nearly 200 animals at the zoo, the bear was one of few animals to survive the invasion.

Yampil, named after his hometown, was found concussed and near death after a shell had exploded near his cage just days before he was discovered.

Following a long journey from Belgium, where he was being cared for by the Belgian nature charity Natuur Hulp Centrum, Yampil arrived at Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder on Friday morning.

Renowned for its rescue work and care for endangered animals, the zoo had pledged to provide a safe home for Yampil in Scotland.

Ambitious fundraising efforts began in September last year to help with transportation costs and help zoo build a new £200,000 enclosure.

Yampil is now set to go into hibernation until Spring when visitors will be able to get a first glimpse of him.

According to the United Nations, more than 13 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of Russia’s all-out war, including seven million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced.

Countless animals were left behind, forced to fight for survival amid Russian attacks and cold weather.

The zoo has said it will require an investment of around £200,000 for a brand new enclosure for Yampil, and is inviting people to donate to help with this as well as the cost of his future upkeep and veterinary care, at Five Sisters Zoo for the rest of his life. The fundraiser can be found here.

Brian Curran, owner of Five Sisters Zoo, said: “When we were made aware of the awful treatment and conditions Yampil was subjected to, our hearts broke; we were just so amazed he was still alive and well.

“When the volunteers found Yampil, a shell had not long exploded near his cage, and he was concussed. He was in terrible condition; five more days and they wouldn’t have been able to save him.

“We knew instantly that we had to help, and immediately committed to giving Yampil a new start in life – despite knowing how much of an investment it would cost the zoo.

“We have rescued bears before and have some terrific facilities. However, Yampil is the first rescued Asiatic black bear we will care for, and he requires a whole new enclosure to match his special needs.

“We are well aware of the cost-of-living crisis and of people’s difficult financial situations, but should anyone be in a position to help, we would really welcome their support and generous donations”.  

Ukrainian soldiers called in support from animal welfare volunteers who help rescue animals affected by the war, including the charity, Natuur Hulp Centrum. 

Frederik Thoelen, a spokesperson from the charity said: “If one animal deserves a good and better future, it’s without doubt war-victim Yampil.

“And from previous experiences, we know it’s exactly what Five Sisters Zoo can offer this magnificent Asiatic Black bear. We’re very grateful they can offer Yampil the future he deserves.”

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