Rescued Bear and Her Cubs Taste Freedom Back in Armenian Mountains


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

Dasha had been kept in a cramped cage half-submerged in water by a riverside restaurant in Hrazdan Gorge in Yerevan, the Armenian capital city. 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 center in the mountains that we set up with FPWC. Dasha responded well to the veterinary treatment and care she received at the center. Once winter set in, she went into hibernation in her enclosure, only to emerge the following spring with two tiny cubs at her heels.

The above video, The Amazing Story of Dasha, shows Dasha’s entire journey with IAR, from rescue to release. 

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 that 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 they were fit and well, the three bears were sedated and carried into individual transport crates before being loaded onto a truck and driven high into the mountains above the rescue center. 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 their doors were raised simultaneously so that mother and cubs could leave together.

The bears emerge from their transport crates during their release. Image credit International Animal Rescue.

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 realized her daughter Coco had not yet emerged. Within minutes, mother and daughter were exploring their new territory and were soon reunited with Luka.

Alan Knight, 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 who have been reintroduced, which is invaluable when planning future release operations.”

Featured image: two of the rescued bears run free after their release. Image credit International Animal Rescue.

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At International Animal Rescue we do exactly what our name says – we save animals from suffering around the world. Our work includes cutting free and caring for dancing bears in India, rescuing primates from captivity in Indonesia and sterilising and vaccinating stray dogs and cats in developing countries. Wherever possible we return rescued animals to their natural environment but we also provide a permanent home for animals that can no longer survive in the wild. As human populations expand, wildlife comes under increasing threat. By rescuing individual animals belonging to species like the orangutan and reintroducing them into protected areas in the wild, our work also plays a role in the conservation of the species as a whole. Click to see author's profile.

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