We are absolutely delighted and thrilled to tell our supporters and donors that the 3 female Georgian bear cubs, Georgia, Mollie and Louisa, found in the aftermath of the floods in Tbilisi last June, embarked upon their 1700 mile journey to freedom and have at last arrived safely and are settling into their new home in Northern Greece.
After the beautiful 3 month old cubs were found in the streets, one of them in a rubbish bin, they were taken to the Tbilisi Municipal Dog Shelter which is the main and largest dog shelter in the city as there was nowhere else for them to go. Mayhew International immediately stepped in to offer assistance and begin working to find a charity organisation that could help the bears with a new home. We called on international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation who agreed to help and find a suitable sanctuary for the bears. Mayhew International coordinated with various government agencies and authorities to secure the safe passage for the bears from Georgia to their new home in Northern Greece, and Born Free coordinated their arrival in Greece and their space at the Greek sanctuary.
We launched our Bear Cubs Journey to Freedom appeal last November and thanks to our generous supporters, over £6800 was raised which helped Mayhew International take good care of the cubs at the shelter. The necessary legal documentation, export and import licences always take time in this situation, particularly between two countries. This meant that the bears stayed at the shelter for nearly a year, which we recognise wasn’t ideal so during this time we ensured that the best care, comfort, enrichment and diet was given to the bears.
The funds went directly to help the three bear cubs providing enrichment such as logs and toys and essential supplementary dietary foods including fish, fresh fruit, nuts, honeys and berries to maintain the cubs’ health and weight. The donations paid for specially built winter bear dens to keep them warm and comfortable during the cold winter months. In addition, The Mayhew’s supporter donations paid for custom clearance of the wildlife transportation IATA cages, hire vehicles and fees for all of the documentation required to export the bears from Georgia to Greece according to CITES regulations. Mayhew International was also helped by the centre for Biodiversity Research & Conservation in Georgia and the Tbilisi Zoo.
Born Free launched an appeal to raise money for the rescue, relocation and the care of the bears at the bear and wolf Arcturos Sanctuary in Greece.
At last when the paperwork was completed, a date of Friday 13th May was set for the bears to start their journey to freedom – a very lucky date for them! The bears were loaded into their individual travel crates, which are specially constructed leopard crates and were the ideal size for the cubs. At the crack of dawn on the day of departure, the bears were loaded onto a truck and travelled to Tbilisi International Airport ready for the specially chartered cargo plane that was arriving from Athens in Greece. The bears were accompanied throughout their transit by Born Free’s vet, Dr. John Knight, BVetMed, MRCVS, who continually monitored them to make sure they were comfortable and healthy. Loaded on the plane, the bears’ crates were secured and they fell asleep with the motion of the plane and the sound of the engines during the four hour flight.
When the bears arrived at Thessaloniki Airport in Greece, they were quickly loaded into a truck, kept open for maximum ventilation in the hot and humid weather, and promptly cleared through customs before they began the three hour drive to the Arcturos sanctuary by road, stopping for food and water breaks along the way. The bears were fed tomatoes, apples, bananas, bread, honey and nuts and given plenty of water. The bears seemed calm and happy during the journey and after a while the convoy left the city behind and the landscape changed to countryside, a wide valley and mountains.
On arrival at Arcturos the bears were placed into holding dens so that they could get used to their new environment. Georgia came out first and immediately ran into the enclosure while Mayhew International, Born Free and Arcturos staff watched in anticipation. Mollie was next to be released into the enclosure followed by Louisa. All three bears were a little tentative and uncertain of what was going on, however they took to their new surroundings quickly. They were alert and curious looking up at the blue sky and bright sunshine, walking, running and sniffing around to explore. The bears had been used to the barking of dogs in the Tblisi Municipal Dog Shelter so the sounds of the quiet and peaceful countryside and crickets filling the air was unfamiliar too.
After a couple of hours, they began to settle down and after spending their first night, the sanctuary staff reported that they were feeling much more comfortable in the morning and happily eating their food.
The bears are all doing really well and now happily living together in a large grassy enclosure with another bear cub, Patrick, who was already at the sanctuary. All four bears are getting along fine. They are all comfortable and safe within their new enclosure which gives them an environment where they can be rehabilitated and released to live semi-wild as bears should and not be subjected to a life in captivity.
Caroline Yates, CEO, The Mayhew Animal Home says: “We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to finally get these bears to a better habitat and environment and that the bears arrived safely at their new home in Greece to have the life they deserve. The bear cubs had been staying in the Tbilisi Municipal Dog Shelter since June 2015. Because the shelter is geared towards the short-term care of stray dogs, the accommodation was clearly not suitable for the cubs in the long term.”
“Our supporters have been incredibly generous with their funds which allowed us to build the bear cubs’ winter dens, provide enrichment and the essential supplementary food needed to retain their health and weight, as well as pay for fees and export licences. We are extremely grateful to our wonderful supporters who helped the bears through a critical and difficult time.”
“I would also like to thank Mariam Mrevlishvili, Mayhew International’s Project Coordinator in Georgia, and Mayhew volunteers who put a lot of hard work into caring for the bears and worked with the relevant Tbilisi authorities to ensure the necessary documentation was in place for the export and transportation of the cubs. The dog shelter wasn’t the ideal temporary environment for three bear cubs, however the staff did everything they could to ensure the cubs’ health, comfort and security was maintained throughout the year. In addition, we would like to thank the Centre for Biodiversity Research & Conservation in Georgia for their help and advice and also the contributions to the cubs’ welfare from Tbilisi Zoo.”
Thanks to the generosity of you, the three bear cubs were kept safe, well fed and made comfortable while a safe passage was arranged and a sanctuary found. The remainder of the funds raised will be used to care for the bears at the sanctuary, so every single penny donated has helped these bears start a new life. You can read the latest update on the bears in Greece here.
The Mayhew would like to thank the following people and organisations for their help to the bears and for enabling a successful rescue:
You can visit the Arcturos website here.
Credits and thanks: Bear photos in Greece, Philip Ide, video in Georgia, Giorgi Mrevlishvili, photos in Georgia, James Salvatore and Caro Wilkes, photos in Greece, Arcturos,
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