‘A calm and gentle individual’: Yampil the bear becomes first Ukrainian animal rehomed in UK


Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian is building an enclosure for the animal who was traumatised when a Russian shell destroyed his zoo last year,


When staff from Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian travelled to Belgium in September to visit a bear that they plan to rehome later this month, they were not sure what to expect.

Less than a year earlier, Yampil had been only a few days from death when he was found by Ukrainian troops in the ruins of an abandoned zoo in the town near Donetsk that gave him his name.


But following his traumatic ordeal, the asiatic black bear appeared to show no scars of the shelling that destroyed his habitat or the Russian occupation that killed almost all of the 200 other zoo animals.

The Five Sisters zookeepers were pleased to find a healthy bear chomping merrily on a cucumber when they arrived at his temporary home at the Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre in eastern Belgium – a world away from the videos they had seen of Yampil, dirty and concussed after a shell landed near his enclosure, being carried through the rubble on a tarpaulin by soldier.


Garry Curran, the head of carnivores, said: “Bears can often suffer mental health problems after going through a traumatic experience, and so it was really important we understood Yampil and what to expect from him.

“Although he appeared a little nervous at first, he seems to have adapted surprisingly well and didn’t actually show any concerning stress-related behaviours. He seems to be a calm and gentle individual, which was reassuring for all of us.”

Frederik Thoelen, a spokesperson for Natuurhulpcentrum, said: “If one animal deserves a good and better future, it’s without doubt war victim Yampil. We’re very grateful they can offer Yampil the future he deserves.”

Yampil’s thick fur and cartoonish ears are likely to make him a favourite at the Scottish zoo, where preparations are under way for his arrival at his temporary enclosure in the coming weeks, making him the first Ukrainian zoo refugee to arrive in the UK.

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