A disturbing undercover video released by Four Paws, shows two keepers at Lutsk Zoo in the Ukraine, ripping a 4-month-old bear cub from its mother and forcing the screaming cub into a tiny box to be sold to traders.
Animal welfare organization Four Paws Ukraine, documented the entire transfer and even followed the baby brown bear to her new home. Sold to traders as a photo model for tourists, the organization is now calling for the urgent confiscation of both bears so that they may be reunited.
Amir Khalil, head of the Four Paws project in the Ukraine said in a press release sent to Digital Journal, "these are the most shocking pictures I have seen in my long career in animal welfare."
The cub named Nastia, is shown screaming frantically for her mother as two men violently wrench the bear cub away and brutally force her into a transport box. Meanwhile the cub's mother is shown in the background completely frantic as she paces back and forth in her cage, calling to her cub, but unable to help her.
Nastia cries pitifully as she is crammed into a makeshift transport box, clearly too small for her.
After virtually stuffing the bear cub into the crate, one of the men, now seemingly annoyed by the cub's continuous chilling screams, smacks the bear through the makeshift wire lid. Unceremoniously, the cub is placed onto the back seat of a vehicle and driven away.
The video of Nastia, Khalil says, highlights the "continued trade in young bears and their outrageous exploitation." Selling animals from zoos to private buyers is illegal in the Ukraine he explains, and "undermines any efforts by the Ukraine authorities to manage the problem."
The panic in Nastia's eyes can clearly be seen.
Four Paws has been working tirelessly to locate Nastia. Video footage taken after her arrival at the trader's, shows the traumatized bear cub desperately hurling her tin cup against the cage wall.
Nastia's solitary home with animal traders.
Aside from "the outstanding brutality" of ripping a cub from its mother Khalil said, "a baby bear in the wild usually stays with their mother for two years. When taken away from her too early," he said, "the cub remains traumatized and suffers from a lack of real socialization."
Annika Lürßen, an ethologist and an expert in brown bears said the brutal separation would have a traumatic effect on the cub possibly forever. An "analysis of the cub's behaviour in its new surroundings," demonstrates this. "The bear cub" Lürßen said, showed "a high level of aggression which is not part of the natural behaviour repertoire of bear cubs in that age." The ethologist recommended that the cub be reunited with its mother as soon as possible.
Khalil added that Four Paws will "urge the Ukrainian government to immediately confiscate the young bear. There’s no time to lose," he said. "This mother and child need to be reunited as quickly as possible." Four Paws he added, is at "the full disposal of the authorities and in case of a confiscation, [we will] also ask the public to help us with establishing a home for both bears, appropriate for the species."
Just recently, Four Paws successfully worked with Ukrainian authorities to supervise the confiscation of four other bears that were transferred to a bear rescue center in Synevyr. Khalil hopes authorities will take the same action for Nastia. "This trade has to stop," Khalil said.