A brown bear, who was once rescued by Russian pilots as a cub, has again been saved by the same men after they came to know that he was being used as dog bait.
The pilots first rescued Mansur – an orphaned cub – when they found him wandering around the Orlovka air base in Amur Oblast, in 2016.
However, after keeping him for a while at their airbase, the men decided to look for a suitable place for him to live.
They soon found Mansur a sanctuary in Seliger nature reserve, where the cub would be protected from poachers and hunters.
Mansur’s main carer, pilot Andrey Ivanov, 39, said: ‘A local official from the Ministry of Nature Resources and Ecology volunteered to help.’
‘We trusted him, but we wanted to keep an eye on our bear – yet this official did not tell us how Mansur was doing.’
But when Ivanov and his colleagues didn’t get any updates on the bear, they investigated the matter only to learn that they had been conned.
Mansur was never taken to the sanctuary, instead, he was living in Kaluga in a notorious ‘bear-baiting station’ where tethered animals were used to train hunting dogs.
‘We started our own investigation, which led us to finding Mansur in a horrible condition at one of dog baiting stations,’ Ivanov said.
Upon discovering the horrifying news, the pilots rushed to rescue him.
The poor animal was in a terrible condition with his fur covered in excrement but, fortunately, his claws had not been turned out and teeth not cut by the baiting station – as is usually done for the protection of dogs under training.
Mansur immediately recognized Ivanov and jumped toward him in an attempt to hug him.
The bear was taken back to the airbase where Ivanov and his colleagues built a shelter for him and installed an electronic fence to avoid the risk of Mansur attacking anyone.
‘We rescued him, and from that moment we didn’t even think about letting Mansur be taken by anyone else,’ Ivanov said.
‘We decided to join forces and to build him a house, with his own protected territory and a pond. We want to make him a really good comfortable place to live. He is part of our team.’
With the support from pilots across the nation, Ivanov is now building a new permanent enclosure for Mansur using a cargo container to make sure the bear can be moved whenever needed.
‘Bears live for 30-40 years, and I am not going to abandon him,’ vowed Ivanov. ‘I don’t know what is going on to happen at the airdrome in some five years.
‘But if I have a container, it will be possible to move the bear to any new place and provide the most comfortable adaptation for him.’