Rescued Bear Cubs Bid Farewell to their Kent Home
Orphaned bear cubs bid farewell to their home at Wildwood Trust in Kent, as they take the final leg of their extraordinary journey and arrive at their ‘forever home’ in Devon.
The Kent wildlife park, Wildwood Trust are saying a fond farewell to two orphaned bear cubs who took refuge there after being abandoned by their mother when they were just a few weeks old. Eurasian brown bear cubs, Mish and Lucy, have been firm favourites at Wildwood Trust in Canterbury, Kent and the sibling cubs were saved from certain death following their rescue from the Albanian mountains. Once safely at Wildwood, they were rehabilitated by staff at the park and two years on from their dramatic rescue, they are heading for their happily-ever-after-home in Devon. Bosses at the Kent park – who still care for two adult bears – say their success with the cubs has opened the door for more rescue bears in the near future.
Today, after two years with the world-renowned team of bear rehabilitation experts and a nationwide appeal to fund their journey, the young bears have arrived in Devon. Wildwood’s Head of Living Collections Mark Habben says “Mish and Lucy have become part of the family at Wildwood Kent but it was never in the plan to have them here long term, so we’re all incredibly excited to complete their journey to their forever home. We’re delighted that their new home is finally ready and I know they’ll be really happy in Devon. Our bear experts will be on-hand to support our team there and pass on their experience to help the cubs settle in. We can’t wait for our visitors and members to meet them!”
Wildwood Trust received worldwide acclaim for their rehabilitation of their two other adult brown bears, Fluff and Scruff, who were rescued in Bulgaria six years ago. The pair, who are still at the Kent park, have recovered fully after suffering years of physical and mental trauma when they were held in an abandoned breeding facility under horrific conditions to be shot for ‘sport’. It was as a result of its impressive reputation in this field that the charity was contacted to help provide a permanent woodland sanctuary for Mish and Lucy in April 2019. Abandoned by their mother, the bear cubs couldn’t survive on their own so experts stepped in to save them, with the intention of returning them to the wild at a later stage. However, despite all efforts, it was clear the cubs couldn’t be returned to the wild for their own safety.
The siblings were held in a temporary enclosure in Belgium, but this was not suitable for their long term care. They were in a crucial phase of their lives, where they needed lots of enrichment and the chance to develop proper bear behaviour, which is much harder without their mum to teach them. They needed to explore, play and learn to forage naturally.
Paul Whitfield, Wildwood Trust’s Director General says “All of the bears we care for at Wildwood have been rescued just like Lucy and Mish, who quite simply would not be able to survive in the wild. Their journey is an extraordinary one, but they’re not alone. They represent the struggle of wildlife to exist in its natural habitats in the face of the climate and nature crisis. We will give these cubs the best life possible, despite their sad start. Given the tremendous success we’ve had with Mish and Lucy, we hope that in the near future we’ll be able to welcome more rescued bears to the Wildwood family.”
The orphaned bears will begin life at Escot in a temporary residence while the finishing touches are added to their forever home. These have both been designed to offer them plenty of opportunities to explore, play and forage under the watchful eye of the charity’s expert animal team, all behaviours they would have learned in the wild. The cubs will enjoy lots of enrichment, from trees to climb and earth dens to dig, to root balls, fallen trees, toys and rope challenges, and daily food treasure hunts. Later this summer, they will move to a fantastic, custom-built acre-and-a-half, permanent enclosure in the park, the equivalent of about 1.5 football fields. Built across beautiful Devon woodland and grassland, everything will be left as natural as possible and will create a lifelong habitat for the cubs.
Visitors to the park will be able to get up close to these extraordinary animals by walking on a very exciting ‘bear bridge’ which will link two sides of the exhibit and give guests a birds-eye view over the cubs’ woodland home. Wildwood Trust launched an appeal to raise £250,000 to build the new woodland bear sanctuary and transport the bears safely to Britain where they resided at the Trust’s Kent park until their Escot home was ready.
Vital funds are still needed to complete the bear’s forever home. Donations can be made on the campaign website or by calling the donation hotline: 01227 712111.
To visit Fluff and Scruff at Wildwood Kent, head to www.kent.wildwoodtrust.org .
Visitors will need to pre-book for park entrance and Bear experiences.