Masha, a female bear rescued from Ukraine

Incredible rescue saves exploited bear from war-torn Ukraine



Mistreated Masha, who spent 19 years in a Ukrainian circus, has finally found freedom in Romania. Libearty Sanctuary is a safe haven for bears like Masha.

Update: Monday, 11 April - Masha has died
2pm UTC+1

Marie Chambers, Network Manager (Bears), said:

“We are devastated to hear that Masha the bear, who was recently rescued from Ukraine and transferred to the Asociația Milioane de Prieteni - AMP Libearty Sanctuary, has suffered a stroke and has sadly passed away.

“Every attempt was made to save her by the team’s vet – but she did not respond to treatment and sadly didn’t pull through.

“After 19 years of being kept in a tiny cage and forced to perform in the circus, the 22-year-old bear arrived just three weeks ago (21 March) and in this short time we were delighted at how she responded to her newly found freedom. She was able to play in the grass, scratch trees and paddle in her pool. It is painfully unfair that after so many years of cruelty, this well-deserved period of retirement, was cut short.

“We are happy that Masha’s last weeks were spent surrounded by nature with the freedom to explore, and she received the best care possible. But we are all heart-broken at this news. May she now rest in peace."

Journey across war torn Ukraine

The Eurasian brown bear was taken on a 140-mile journey across war-torn Ukraine to the Romanian border by the brave Ukrainian animal charity, Warriors of Wildlife. There, they were met by Millions of Friends (AMP), who joined them in transporting the 22-year-old bear to their Libearty Bear Sanctuary. This all happened successfully despite the dangers posed by Russia’s invasion.

Masha spent most of her life in misery as part of a circus, where she was kept in a tiny cage, and forced to perform tricks, such as riding a bike to loud music and roaring crowds. The elderly bear was finally surrendered by the circus owner to Warriors of Wildlife and placed in a temporary shelter. Now, she will live in a beautiful forest home filled with trees to climb, pools to bathe in and soon she will meet other bears to socialise with. Due to her upbringing in captivity, being released into the wild is sadly not possible.

A safe haven for bears

Libearty Sanctuary is based in the oak forests of Zarnesti, Romania, and provides a safe haven for rescued bears to live naturally. AMP has overseen all construction work, manages the sanctuary, cares for the bears and facilitates bear rescues.

Watch Masha arriving at her new home:

You can also try to spot Masha and some of the other 115 rescued bears on the sanctuary’s YouTube livestream.

Keeping captive wild animals in cruel exploitative systems has a devastating impact on individual animals and wildlife. When we make wild animals dependent on humans, they are especially vulnerable in emergencies, including human-made conflicts and catastrophes.

We believe that wild animals have the right to a wild life. They don’t belong to us - their value is not based on what they can do for people or the profit we can extract from them. We need to protect them, not exploit them.

Steve McIvor, CEO, at World Animal Protection said:

“The situation unfolding in Ukraine is terrifying for people, but also animals who are often the forgotten victims in times of crisis yet suffer immensely. While things are truly bleak, I am delighted that even amidst the devastation, there is hope for Masha and we hope other animals too in the coming weeks.

“It has been a tense wait to learn the outcome of her journey, and we are just so relieved that this rescue has been a success and wasn’t prevented by war. After so many agonising years of cruelty, Masha can finally get to live in peace, as she deserves.”

Lionel de Lange, Director, Warriors of Wildlife said:

“It was extremely sad to see Masha in the circus where she had to perform for 19 long years. When we eventually got her into our care, her ex-owner still tried to proudly show us the tricks he taught her, a steel bar under his arm. Masha immediately started to cower and stand on her hind leg like a human and use her paws to protect her head and face - she was terrified.

“When war broke out and her transport was cancelled, I had to leave the country and felt utterly guilty to leave her behind although I knew it was just temporary, I was coming back. Seeing her being released at the Libearty bear sanctuary was just a great moment of joy. She was able to do everything on her own time; she wasn’t forced to do anything. It is now time for her to just be a bear, digging the dirt, climbing trees and enjoy her time.”

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“It has been a tense wait to learn the outcome of her journey, and we are just so relieved that this rescue has been a success and wasn’t prevented by war. After so many agonising years of cruelty, Masha can finally get to live in peace, as she deserves.

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