Bear cubs orphaned after Tbilisi flood complete their journey from Georgia to Greece
13 June, 2016
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Three orphaned female bear cubs, discovered on the streets of Tbilisi in Georgia after floods in June last year, embarked upon and completed their 1700 mile journey to freedom from Tbilisi to a sanctuary in northern Greece.

The orphaned cubs, named Georgia, Mollie and Louisa, were only three months old when they were found in the city after severe flooding, one of the bears in a rubbish bin. All three bears were picked up by authorities during the emergency relief operations and immediately taken in by Tbilisi Municipal Dog Shelter as there were no other facilities where they could go to cater for them.

Mayhew International, a growing arm of the UK based charity The Mayhew Animal Home, that is involved in animal welfare and veterinary training at Tbilisi’s Municipal Dog Shelter, immediately stepped in to offer assistance and worked closely with Georgia’s National Food Agency, the Ministries of the Environment & Natural Resources & Agriculture and Tbilisi’s Animal Monitoring Agency to secure the bear cubs’ safe passage and all of the necessary export licenses and documentation required to move them from Georgia to Greece.

Donations of over £6800, given by The Mayhew’s generous supporters, went directly to help the three bear cubs providing enrichment such as logs and toys, supplementary dietary foods including fish, fresh fruit, nuts, honey and berries. The donations also paid for the specially built winter bear dens to keep them warm and comfortable during the cold winter months. In addition, supporters’ 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 according to CITES regulations. The remainder of the funds will go towards the cubs’ care in their new home at Arcturos Sanctuary in Northern Greece.

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.”

“These three bear cubs had been staying in the Tbilisi Municipal Dog Shelter since June 2015. As 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 working with the relevant Tbilisi authorities who helped and cooperated 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.”

The Mayhew Animal Home searched for charity organisations to help the bears and international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation stepped in to assist and find them a suitable home. Born Free also launched an appeal raising money for the rescue, relocation and the care of the bears at the bear and wolf Arcturos Sanctuary.
A Georgian team, along with Born Free’s vet, Dr. John Knight, BVetMed MRCVS, assembled at the Tbilisi Municipal Dog Shelter to prepare, crate and load the bears ready for transport. On 13th May 2016, accompanied by Dr. Knight, the bears were flown on a specially chartered flight from Tbilisi International Airport to Thessaloniki Airport where they travelled for three hours by road to Arcturos.

The three bears are currently being integrated together in a new, large bear enclosure which will give them an environment with plenty of natural enrichment where they will be rehabilitated and can be released to live as bears should and not be subjected to a life in captivity. A fourth bear cub, Patrick, will also be joining the three females.

Heavy rainfall was followed by a flood on June 13, 2015 in Tbilisi.

As a result of the disaster, the Vere River overflew and swept away of buildings and cars, leaving dozens of families homeless. The Tbilisi Zoo and Tamaz Elizbarashvili dog shelter were destroyed as well. Numerous animals drowned, while select few managed to escape.

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