On Valentine's Day, the festival of love, FOUR PAWS would like to share the especially moving story of the deep friendship between Nastia and Bodia. Both young bears in the FOUR PAWS BEAR FOREST Domazhyr simply adore each other – although they had a dreadful start to life.
Nastia was brutally torn from her mother at Lutsk Zoo in 2012 and sold to animal traders. Just a year later, Bodia experienced a similar fate. In an undercover operation, the five-month-old brown bear was sold for only 1,000 USD to a TV channel. Luckily, FOUR PAWS was able to expose the illegal sales and rescue both bears form an uncertain fate.
Both animals were initially brought to the FOUR PAWS BEAR CENTRE Nadiya in Zhytomyr. In 2014, they were finally 'socialised', as experts say, and have shared an enclosure ever since. 'From the start, both bear children were inseparable, even when they got a new home after moving to the BEAR FOREST Domazhyr. "Staying together" seems to be their motto. It's really charming,' says Lisa Shlyakhtina, chief animal carer at BEAR FOREST Domazhyr. Visitors to the BEAR FOREST are regularly delighted to watch the bears cuddle and play.
Nastia, who is now six years old and a beautiful, fluffy and above all healthy young female bear, has taken on the role of protector. 'She's very confident and always defends Bodia,' grins Shlyakhtina. 'When curious bears from other enclosures approach the fence and want to communicate with Bodia, Nastia is always on the spot. She always wants to make sure that nothing happens to Bodia.' Jealousy definitely plays a role here – and that by all means applies to Bodia, too: the magnificent, sometimes clumsy, boy bear. 'When for example Potap, one of our foster children, tries to flirt with Nastia over the fence, Bodia chases him away immediately. He's not going to share his girlfriend with anyone,' says Shlyakhtina.
Mostly, the bears enjoy playing and swimming together. For the animal carers, watching the couple are the most rewarding moments of their work. 'It's also exciting to see how they deal with new, so-called enrichment material in different ways,' explains Shlyakhtina. 'Bodia just starts playing, trying out all the things he can do with it. Nastia is much more pragmatic. There's usually food hidden in the enrichment. She finds out straight away how to get at her treats.'
But most amusing for the animal carers, as well as for the visitors to the BEAR FOREST, is when both bears try to outdo each other climbing. 'Bears are so incredibly skillful, you wouldn't believe it looking at their body shape', says Shlyakhtina. 'But sometimes our hearts nearly stop at the daring way Nastia and Bodia climb. Though they know very well just how to judge their skills.' Besides, in an emergency they can rely 100 percent on others – that's what a bear's best friends are for!
The FOUR PAWS BEAR FOREST Domazhyr
In 2016, the foundation stone was laid for a new FOUR PAWS bear sanctuary close to the Ukrainian city of Lviv (Lemberg). The first construction phase was recently completed. On a total area of 7.7 hectares, the BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr has already become a species-appropriate home to seven bears formerly kept in catastrophic conditions. The bear sanctuary will be extended in the coming years. Once all construction work has finished, the area will cover 20 hectares and offer space for up to 30 long-suffering bears. By building the BEAR FOREST Domazhyr, FOUR PAWS has created sustainable housing for rescued bears and thus is supporting the Ukrainian government in implementing the countrywide ban on keeping bears for bear-baiting.