After years of torture, abuse and ridicule, more than a dozen brown bears are today being rehabilitated in a 43-hectar national park in Synevir, Ukraine.
This is the fascinating story of Europe’s largest rehabilitation center for brown bears in the rugged Carpathian mountains, near the wild border with Romania and Hungary. Our team embeds with the bear community in this isolated outpost to tell the little-known story of how—despite the conflict tearing it apart – the Ukraine is managing to unite around a common cause: to give back dignity to this community of exemplary, massive brown bears, which can weigh up to 200 kilograms. In 2011, the Ukrainian Environmental Ministry banned keeping brown bears in private captivity. But before then, it was not uncommon for bears to be held captive in horrific conditions. They were forced to drink hard alcohol – often vodka – then made to wear skirts and dance or perform other tricks in hotels, restaurants, petrol stations and illegal circuses to amuse visitors. Some of these places still exist today, but one by one, the bears are being released from their shackles and reintroduced to the wild.