Hello, dear readers! I am so happy to be back writing in my blog. After I completed my 365 Days of Musical Theater series, I admit I took an unplanned blogging break (aside from my surprisingly-popular citation posts). I'm sorry about that! Now, though, and I've decided to begin this new series where I share wonderful things that make me happy in the hopes that they will make you happy, too.
First up...White Rock Bear Shelter in Ukraine, near Kyiv. The work they are doing there to help rescued bears gives me hope for humanity.
Like many of my fellow Millennials, I spend a lot of time on the internet. One of my favorite viral videos features a white fluffy bear stumbling out of a den and looking like she was just woken up by her work alarm. Often it is accompanied by a caption like "If Monday was a bear" or, when I recently saw it, a joke about accidentally napping for 9 hours. The bear in question, Chada, was even dubbed by The Dodo as a "mascot of the sluggish and sleepy", which must be why I loved her the moment I saw her. As I am always curious about the welfare of wild animals (we all know how I feel about elephants), I needed to know more and sought out information about her home: White Rock Bear Shelter. An initial search showed me that she is a Himalayan bear, born circa 1998, who was rescued from a circus. She is getting older and has eyesight and tooth issues, but is living her best life in retirement. I was immediately obsessed.
The next thing I knew I was going down a research hole because I had to know everything about the work being done by White Rock to give bears the good lives they deserve. Some of what I learned was this:
The bears have mostly been rescued from circuses or other forced-performance situations and often have continued issues due to their years of horrible neglect and mistreatment. They largely cannot be rewilded.
The bears aren't alone! White Rock also tends to wolves (like Dora, who you can see here).
Since the outbreak of the war, the Shelter has remained dedicated to protecting the animals in their care--including staging an evacuation when things became particularly precarious. You can see their video about that here.
You can visit the shelter to learn about their work, just not during hibernation season for obvious reasons.
They use European and US rehabilitation and zoo standards to prep the areas where the bears live. You can see their video about that here.
You can donate to 'adopt' a bear (or wolf) and the funds go to benefit everyone. The cost is 1000 UAH. They estimate that to be about $35 but when I did it, due to fluctuations in conversion rates, it only cost me $26.70. You can even tell them which animal you want to be attached to and they will not only post about it, but they will also email you (if you are international) a lovely certificate to commemorate your contribution. You can learn more about that by clicking here or reading an Instagram post like this one.
Of course, as I just implied, because I'm me and bears are part of my trinity of favorite animals (the other two are elephants and rabbits), I knew I needed to donate. I'm also a sucker for any form of temporary adoption of an animal. It makes me feel good to donate to the protection of all while being able to associate myself with a specific animal because their story speaks to me.
I ended up sponsoring two of the bears: Lyubochka and Synochok. I knew I wanted to adopt a girl (like me!) and Chada got a lot of press, so I immediately was interested in Lyubochka. Then, I saw Synochok's picture on the website and wanted to (virtually!!) hug him, so I knew I had to learn about them both. It turned out that they were rescued together! They both had traumatic lives where they were forced to live in metal cages and perform whenever it was demanded of them--including letting people touch them. The story provided by the Shelter (which you can read here) not only talks about the horrible treatment they received, but also show images of them in performance that will break your heart. While we can at least be glad that they were surrendered to the Shelter voluntarily, it is clear the conditions of their earlier lives had lasting impact. The Shelter reports that both Lyubochka and Synochok had serious fears about going anywhere. Lyubochka would hide as much as possible. Meanwhile, Synochok had developed a heart condition from his time in tiny captivity that requires monitoring and he will still make a hand clapping motion (like he did when performing) to get attention from the staff. Once I read all of this, I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep without donating to help them.
Look at the adorable faces below. How can you not want to know they're getting to live happily now? These screenshots are of this post, which heralded my adoption of the two bears. I also received wonderful PDF certificates commemorating the adoptions that I printed out and hung on my fridge, as one does. There is no doubt that I will donate again in the future.
[Image descriptions: Two screenshots of the Instagram post done by the White Rock Bear Shelter following my donation. The text on it reads Thank you dear My Name is Purpose for adoption of Lyuba and Synochok! Welcome to bear friends club and may the bear force be with you. The two images are close-up photographs of the bear's faces. They both have brown fur and black noses. Lyuba, on the left, has slightly lighter fur with greater color variation, while Synochok, on the right, has fur that is darker brown.]
The social media accounts for the Shelter post daily and I look forward to seeing them. Whether it's a simple clip of bear enjoying a snack or an educational video about the history of the residents, I'm always fascinated by it. It's hard to see their work and not feel a tug on your heart strings. And if you're worried about the language barrier, you can stop now. It's all posted in English, too, usually as the first comment on the post or, in the case of videos, with subtitles. Following them will show you that the bears (and wolves) appear content, well-treated, energetic, curious, and playful.
Happy bears make me happy and knowing there are people whose lives are dedicated to the cause makes me thankful. Now, if only we treated wild animals as we should from the start so that rescues weren't needed...well, that would make me ecstatic.
I hope you'll be as inspired as I was to follow (and maybe contribute to!) their work or, at the very least, that you enjoyed reading about them here. As they say on the White Rock Bear Shelter social media accounts, good bearnight!