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

Bear found in abandoned Ukrainian zoo arrives at new home in Scotland
Yampil the Asiatic black bear has been rehomed at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, West Lothian (Natuurhulpcentrum/PA)

A black bear who survived the war in Ukraine has successfully been rehomed at a zoo in Scotland.

Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, West Lothian, has rescued and rehomed an Asiatic black bear named Yampil from the village of Yampil in Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers discovered an abandoned zoo in the village when they arrived in July 2022, five months after the Russian invasion.

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

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.

The conditions Yampil was found in by soldiers in Ukraine (Natuurhulpcentrum/PA)

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

Staff at Five Sisters heard about the bear from Belgian animal welfare charity Natuurhulpcentrum, which cared for Yampil in the time between his recuse and the search for his permanent home.

“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,” said Brian Curran, owner of Five Sisters Zoo.

Mr Curran added: “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.

“Bears, just like people, can suffer mental health issues similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) after they’ve been through something really traumatic.

“That’s why we have the best team on hand to care for him and help make this transition as peaceful and calm for him as possible.”

Yampil in his temporary home in Belgium before he left for Scotland (Natuurhulpcentrum/PA)

Yampil arrived at the zoo in the early hours of Friday and was safely transported to his temporary enclosure where zoo staff hope he will have a peaceful hibernation.

The zoo has a fundraising target of £200,000 for Yampil’s new home, enclosure and upkeep.

So far, £60,000 has been raised from individual donations and from local businesses donating materials to build Yampil’s home.

Mr Curran added: “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.

“That’s why Yampil is now settling into a temporary enclosure where he will continue his recovery, or go into hibernation; this will give us time to continue to fundraise for his permanent enclosure and work on building this with the support of our community.

“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.”

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