Bubonitsy, Russia - In the forest of the Tver region of Russia, researchers from IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) and veterinarians from the Moscow Zoo have returned five orphaned bear cubs to the wild. Prior to the release, the team performed veterinary checks and tagged the bears for monitoring.

One of these bears will be monitored using a satellite collar, a step forward in evaluating post-release behavior and survival of the bear cubs orphaned by the cruel winter den hunt in Russia.

brown bears

The satellite technology transmits regular signals from the bears collar allowing researchers to follow them remotely and download information about their movements and whereabouts via internet updates three times a week. The collar is programmed to record information about the animals location every 90 minutes and to automatically drop-off after a period of 18 months.

The bears are in good condition after their hibernation in their self-made wintering den. They are being released in spring now when they have access to good forage in the wild. Monitoring their survivability in the wild is critically important to demonstrate rehabilitation practices being used are suitable for raising and releasing orphaned bears, said Anand Ramanathan, Emergency Relief Manager for IFAW.

The cubs, about 15 months old, were being rehabilitated at the IFAW Orphaned Bear Rehab Center (OBRC) in the Russian region of Tver since 2007. The center is run by renowned experts in brown bear rehabilitation, Valentin, Svetlana and Sergei Pazhetnov. Two of the bears were released in the Palistovsky nature reserve about two hundred kilometers away from the OBRC.

Three other bears, including the young male with the new satellite collar, were released near the center. The researchers took blood and hair samples, other physiological information, and ear-tagged the animals before their release.

While these rehabilitated bears were on their way out to freedom, six more orphaned bear cubs came to OBRC this year, four of them victims of the cruel winter den hunt. These cubs, about three months old now, will be rehabilitated and prepared for release in the fall season.

The IFAW OBRC in the Tver region for Russia has successfully released more than 130 bear cubs over the last 12 years. While OBRC has monitored survival of released bears in the wild through radio tracking earlier, the advanced satellite tracking technology allows for remote monitoring from anywhere in the world.

The use of technology enables us to evaluate the success of orphaned bear cub rehabilitation at OBRC. The crucial way to ensure the survival and secure the future of brown bears in Russia, is to stop the den hunt due to which 3000 - 4000 bear cubs die or become orphaned annually.

"Our next goal is to prevent the adoption of the new hunting rules in Russia, which are now under legislative review of the government. If adopted, they will allow hunters to kill or collect the cubs as trophies of the hunt legally, and dramatically increase the death rate of brown bears and their cubs in this country," said Masha Vorontsova, IFAW Russia Director, expressing her deep concern.