Bears Dasha and Lelya at BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz

Bear Siblings Dasha and Lelya Start Again in Germany

FOUR PAWS transferred the former restaurant bears to BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz


Hamburg/Stuer, 20 June 2023 – Between 14-15 June 2023, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS successfully transferred brown bears Dasha and Leyla from its BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr near Lviv in Ukraine to another of its European bear sanctuaries. The transfer was necessary due to a need for medical treatments that are currently not possible in Ukraine due to ongoing war. At BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in Germany, the sisters will find a new home with the same dedicated care they received since their rescue in 2019.

After their arrival, the 18-year-old brown bears spent the first hours resting in the bear house before moving into their spacious forest enclosure – and taking a dip in the large pool right away.

"Lelya has a condition that requires a comprehensive treatment plan, further diagnosis and surgery. She has been showing recurrent signs of a false pregnancy since 2020. As the recurrent episodes may lead to an increased risk of cancer, we would like to spay her. The surgery is to be minimally invasive and the necessary equipment is currently not available in Ukraine," explains veterinarian Mandana Pötsch from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), who accompanied the bear transfer from the Ukrainian-Polish border to its destination.

“We are very glad that Dasha and Lelya have arrived safely at their new home at BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz. Our staff at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr will miss them very much but we know that our colleagues in Germany will take great care of them. Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, certain urgently needed medical treatments for Lelya are not possible, therefore this decision was taken after thorough consideration, to provide her with all the medical care she needs. Lelya and her sister Dasha have always been together and it was clear for us that we will not separate them. We continue to provide the best possible care for the remaining 29 bears at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr who are doing well under the difficult circumstances,”

Ihor Nykolyn, Manager of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr

"We are happy that we can now give Dasha and Lelya a permanent home. Our team will continue the professional care of our colleagues from BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr and give the animals the care they desperately need after years of being cruelly kept as restaurant bears. Just like they did at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr they will get plenty of exercise, live in a bear-friendly environment and be able to further rediscover and live out their instincts. With a bit of luck, we will be able to socialise them with bear brothers Ben and Felix in the future," says Marei Willenborg, Head of Animal & Facility Management at BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz.

Rescued from catastrophic keeping conditions

FOUR PAWS had already successfully rescued Dasha and Lelya in Ukraine in October 2019 and brought them to its BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr. Prior to the rescue they were kept as a tourist attraction in a hotel and restaurant in Skole in western Ukraine. They spent most of their lives in a small concrete cage and were fed an inappropriate diet for their species, including sweet porridge and bread. They had no access to fresh water and could not engage in any activities. As the owners planned to sell the premises after closing their business, FOUR PAWS was asked by the Ukrainian authorities to take the bears into its expert care.

FOUR PAWS defines ‘restaurant bears’ as the keeping of bears in tiny cages in the immediate vicinity of restaurants, bars, hotels and other public recreational facilities that keep bears to attract visitors. In most cases, these bears were taken from the wild as cubs and/or illegally traded before being housed in horrific conditions. FOUR PAWS has been working to help bears in need since 1998 and has since rescued 36 restaurant bears in Europe and re-homed them in its own bear sanctuaries and partner projects. FOUR PAWS aims to end the illegal and inappropriate keeping of bears in Europe and will continue to campaign for bears suffering in such cruel keeping. The focus is on saving the last restaurant bears in Slovenia and Ukraine.

BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz: Western Europe’s largest bear sanctuary

Since 2006, BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz is located in the middle of nature in the heart of the Mecklenburg Lake District. Currently, 13 brown bears live in the sanctuary, which were rescued by FOUR PAWS from catastrophic keeping conditions. On the 16-hectare site in a natural forest, they find a habitat that meets their natural needs and can rediscover their natural behaviours. The animals can retreat at any time if they prefer to avoid visitors or other bears. Many of the bears have only rediscovered their natural behaviours after their arrival at the bear sanctuary an go into hibernation for the first time. The primary purpose of BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz is to protect the bears, but it also makes an important contribution to the educational work that is essential to the animal welfare goals of FOUR PAWS.

Bears Dasha and Lelya


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Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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