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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Dasha and her cubs taste freedom back in the mountains of Armenia

A female brown bear that was kept caged for years on a riverbank has returned to freedom along with her two young cubs. Syrian brown bear Dasha and cubs Coco and Luka were released high in the Armenian mountains by our team alongside our partners, Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC). 

Syrian brown bear Dasha had been kept in a cramped cage half-submerged in water by a riverside restaurant in Hrazdan Gorge in Yerevan. She was being used as a tourist attraction and spent her days pacing to and fro in boredom and frustration or climbing up the bars of the cage in a desperate attempt to escape from her iron prison.

Then, after more than ten years living in that small barren cage, Dasha was finally rescued and taken to the rescue centre in the mountains that we had set up with FPWC. Dasha responded well to the veterinary treatment and care she received at the centre. Once winter set in, she went into hibernation in her enclosure, only to emerge the following spring with two tiny cubs at her heels.

Alan Knight, IAR Chief Executive, said at the time: “The vets have confirmed that both mother and babies are fit and healthy, in spite of the stress Dasha must have suffered when she was rescued and the years of deprivation she was forced to endure.

“I’m delighted that her cubs have been born into such a new, natural environment, rather than starting life behind bars. These two cubs will have everything they need to grow healthy and strong and we hope one day all three will have the chance to return to the wild where they belong.

“Dasha was the first bear to be rescued after we launched our Great Bear Rescue campaign which aims to rescue all the suffering caged bears in Armenia. The birth of these cubs is a fitting testimony to the success of the project which is ending the misery of bears across Armenia and giving them the lives and the freedom they deserve.”

Having previously undergone a thorough vet check to ensure the three bears were fit and well, they were sedated and carried into individual transport crates before being loaded onto a truck and driven high into the mountains above the rescue centre. On reaching the release site on protected land owned by FPWC and patrolled by its rangers, the crates were lined up side by side before the doors were raised simultaneously so that mother and cubs could leave together.

At first, male cub Luka made a sprint to freedom. Then Dasha appeared and made her way into the mountain meadow. But she hesitated when she realised daughter Coco had not yet emerged. Within minutes mother and daughter were exploring their new territory and were soon reunited with Luka.

Alan Knight OBE, our Chief Executive, said: “This is the happy ending we have all been hoping for. Dasha endured years of misery and deprivation locked up in a cage, now she has the freedom to live as nature intended.

“She has been fitted with a radio collar so that we can monitor her whereabouts and check that she and her cubs are thriving. Post-release monitoring means we can gather data on animals that have been reintroduced which is invaluable when planning future release operations.