World's loneliest bear wakes up in Alps after rescue from circus

World’s loneliest bear wakes up from first winter sleep in new Alpine paradise home after spending its entire life in a cage in Ukrainian circus

  • Jambolina, 12, was rescued by an animal rights organisation from Ukraine where she performed in a circus
  • After years of being tortured and forced to perform, the bear is finally free to roam in the Swiss Alps
  • She will be monitored while she adapts to her new environment after the 1,500-mile journey to her new home

The world’s loneliest bear has woken up from her first winter sleep in an Alpine paradise after spending her entire life in a cage in the Ukrainian circus. 

Jambolina, 12, was rescued by animal rights organisation Four Paws, whose staff collected her from her home in Ukraine and transported her on a 1,500-mile journey to her new home, The Arosa Bear Land reserve in the Arosa mountain range in Switzerland.

After years of being tortured and forced to perform for the crowds, Jambolina was nervous and scared when she arrived, her carers said. 

The world’s loneliest bear has woken up from her first winter sleep in an Alpine paradise after spending her entire life in a cage in the Ukrainian circus

Jambolina, 12, was rescued by animal rights organisation Four Paws, whose staff collected her from her home in Ukraine and transported her on a 1,500-mile journey to her new home

After years of being tortured, kept in a tiny cage (pictured) and forced to perform for the crowds, Jambolina was nervous and scared when she arrived

But after a winter sleep, she has emerged ready to enjoy the Alpine paradise after the winter hibernation.

The 12-year-old was extremely cautious at first when she realised there was an open space outside the enclosure she was living in for the first weeks since the move.

Scientific director of the Arosa Bear Land Dr Hans Schmid said: ‘We expected this behaviour and it is completely natural. Scepticism is an important survival strategy for animals and humans.’

But after making a few hesitant steps and sniffing the outdoor environment, Jambolina headed towards the pond and took a long bath.

The animal keepers described Jambolina as brave and clever and said: ‘We are not surprised by Jambolina’s behaviour and we are very pleased that she could find her way around the outdoor area after a short time.’

The 12-year-old was extremely cautious at first when she realised there was an open space outside the enclosure she was living in for the first weeks since the move

After making a few hesitant steps and sniffing the outdoor environment, Jambolina headed towards the pond and took a long bath

Jambolina’s first steps in the outdoor area were eagerly observed by many visitors and Four Paws authorities

Private ownership of bears in Ukraine is possible as long as they are not captured in the wild and are cubs from bears already in captivity

Since the keepers were not familiar with the female bear’s past, they said they would closely monitor her future development.

Dr Hans Schmid explained that they are planning to introduce Jambolina to two other bears who were also rescued and are taken care of in the facility.

He said: ‘When Jambolina gets familiar with the natural terrain after a few weeks, we will first leave her with Meimo and then with Amelia.’

Jambolina’s first steps in the outdoor area were eagerly observed by many visitors and Four Paws authorities.

Four Paws Country Manager in Switzerland Alexandra Mandoki said: ‘Moments like this give me goosebumps and it’s just incredibly beautiful to see how we can give the bears a new life.’

Jambolina was previously used as a circus bear in the Ukraine but her owners could no longer afford her because the Covid lockdown cancelled all public performances of the circus

Although Four Paws has a rescue centre in Ukraine, it currently has 22 bears which is the maximum capacity, so the charity contacted the Swiss reserve for help

Jambolina was previously used as a circus bear in the Ukraine but her owners could no longer afford her because the Covid lockdown cancelled all public performances of the circus.

This provided the opportunity for Four Paws to rescue her, and take her to start a new life in freedom in the 28,000-square-metre Swiss natural reserve.

Although Four Paws has a rescue centre in Ukraine, it currently has 22 bears which is the maximum capacity, so the charity contacted the Swiss reserve for help. 

Cages are required to be a minimum of 322sqft and 10ft high but there is little monitoring or punishment for breaches of the regulations

Director of Four Paws Ukraine Taras Boiko said the rescue was a complex journey across Poland, Germany and Austria, especially with current travel restrictions

A snow groomer brought Jambolina safely through the snow masses at over 2,000 meters above sea level on the final part of her journey

She had been used as a circus bear since she was bought by her owner just weeks after her birth in in January 2009 at Yalta Zoo in Crimea

She had been used as a circus bear since she was bought by her owner just weeks after her birth in in January 2009 at Yalta Zoo in Crimea. 

Private ownership of bears in Ukraine is possible as long as they are not captured in the wild and are cubs from bears already in captivity. 

Cages are required to be a minimum of 322sqft and 10ft high but there is little monitoring or punishment for breaches of the regulations.

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