Wildwood Trust, Kent's unique wildlife park and conservation charity is in a desperate race against the clock to rescue two brown bears from appalling living conditions in Bulgaria, with just weeks before they are trapped for another long winter of solitude and neglect.
People have shown huge generosity and have helped raise an incredible £38,000 so far. But it is now a desperate race against time to raise the remaining £12,000 needed to rescue the bears before the harsh Bulgarian weather turns and traps the animals for another miserable winter in the mountainous region where they are held.
The bears are among the last survivors of Kormisosh, an ex-Soviet bear breeding station that bred bears for the cruel practice of "canned hunting" whereby wild animals are hunted in a confined area from which they cannot escape. When bears received protected status in 1993 hunting was outlawed but rather than re-home the bears, Kormisosh was abandoned, leaving the bears to fend for themselves. The bears continued to breed inside the station and almost 20 years on the last survivors are still trapped in their barren concrete pits where they have lived their whole lives.
With the Bulgarian winter fast approaching the Wildwood team are now under enormous pressure to reach their final target and complete the new enclosure in time to bring the bears to the UK. The stakes could not be higher as another winter spent at Kormisosh increases the bear's chances of losing their minds.
Wildwood's Chief Executive, Peter Smith said "The bears' living conditions in Bulgaria are nothing short of horrendous. We simply have to bring them to Wildwood where we can give them the specialist care and rehabilitation they so desperately need and let them live the rest of their lives in our beautiful woodland".
This momentous project is the largest ever undertaken by Wildwood and has been made possible so far, through the amazing support of everyone who has made a donation, Wildwood's charitable members and the outstanding efforts of volunteers and staff who have been working tirelessly to raise the funds to rescue the bears and to build the new woodland enclosure.
Jon May, Park Manager said: "We are so grateful to everyone who has donated to the appeal; we have had amazing support from our members, visitors and both the local and wider community. Now we are against the clock and need to raise the last £12,000 to rescue the bears, we hope that everyone will continue to be so very generous and get us to our final target".
How to donate to the Wildwood Bear Appeal: