Incredible Moment Circus Bear Is Released Into A Sanctuary
A bear called Masha (pronounced 'Marsha') has been handed over to an animal rescuer, who has released her into a new 350-square-metre purpose-built sanctuary - following a life of being forced to perform in a circus for almost 20 years.
Former owner Sasha gave Masha to Lionel from The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation and the SOS Zoo and Bear Rescue, ending the poor bear's many years of being muzzled, led on a rope and made to perform tricks including riding a scooter and jumping through hoops.
In a statement given to the LAEO, Sasha said: "I was sad to give her away because she has been with me all my life and been there every day.
"But I felt very good because I saw that they cared and they had built her a really good enclosure, I didn't expect it to be as big as it is and as nice as it is."
Lionel said that, while there is no evidence that Sasha mistreated Masha, the bear would raise her paws as if to protect herself when she saw the bar he used to instruct her.
He explained that Sasha might not be able to help secure land that could be used to help other circus animals that people no longer want.
Lionel said: "Sasha got Masha as a cub of about three months old. She has lived in the back of a van in a cage.
"She just had that crate in the back, she didn't even have the run of the whole of the van.
"It can be 32C outside and she would be cooking in the back of that van.
"It's been his bear for so many years and bizarrely he wanted to come and see that she is going to a good place.
"The first time he brought her here I told him to take her out of the back of the van. He wanted to show us tricks and things she could do but we weren't interested in that.
"When we saw Sasha leave the next morning after Masha was released he was in floods of tears."
Lionel continued: "It means so much, to see her not have to perform, to not have to cower to a metal rod
"Any abuse of animals, from dogs and cats, to bears and lions and tigers, I don't like, so it makes me feel good to see them rescued.
"I feel good for Masha that we were able to do this and that we will hopefully be able to do a lot more soon."
Lionel doesn't think Masha will miss her old life, explaining: "From going from not even a one-and-a-half to two square metre box, to 357 square metres of space with oak trees and fruit trees and ground and a pool, I think she'll get over any attachment to her old life.
"It's not huge the new space she has but we know she's going to have trouble adapting to such an area anyway. Finances and so on mean this is what we can provide for now, but it's better than leaving her in a van for the rest of her life.
"We will also build a night shelter where in the winter she can sleep and it will be enclosed with sides that shut down.
"We will feed her in there and we can put her in there with the sides down so workers can clean the sanctuary and pool and add enrichment for her."
The hope for Masha's new home is that it will also function as a transition area and safe space for other rescued animals.
Lionel added: "All the sanctuaries are full, we've got three in Ukraine, one is government, another is full and then there's a very small one with five bears and they can't take any either.
"So, I am the only one that can take new bears and it's going to cost to feed and keep these bears and for vets' bills.
"It will be a place of haven or sanctuary and we hope visitors will be able to come in for a small fee. We can also do an education programme."
Find out more about The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation and how you can help here.
We wish Masha many years of happiness in her new home!
Featured Image Credit: The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization