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.

The team at the Kent conservation charity have been working tirelessly to raise £50,000 to liberate the bears from their tiny concrete cells where they have been trapped for their entire lives. This ambitious sum is required to rescue the bears and transport them to Kent, to a 1.5 acre specially constructed woodland home at Wildwood where they can be rehabilitated and given a safe, natural life.
 
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:
Donate via text: Text BEAR21 plus an amount between £1 and £10 (e.g. BEAR21 £5) to 70070*
Donate by phone: Call 01227 712 111
*Donations will be deducted from your mobile phone account and cost £5 plus your standard network text message rate. Wildwood Trust will receive 100% of your donation. Always get the bill payers permission.
 

ABOUT THE BEARS OF KORMISOSH
How old are the bears? What sex are they? Were they born at the breeding centre?
The bears are both male and were born in 1998 at Kormisosh so will be around 16 when they arrive at Wildwood. They have been there all their life and have never seen the outside of their concrete enclosure.
What state are they in, are they heathy?
They have been fed bland porridge-type food all their lives, nothing else. So while they are surviving and receive enough food for sustenance, they are in poor health as they do not receive the essential vitamins/minerals/variety of food that they need.
They have never been outside their concrete pens. So aside from their physical health, mentally they are suffering too - they receive no enrichment or any form of entertainment at all. For such intelligent, active and inquisitive animals it really is torturous for them.
Who looks after them?
They are currently fed by 2 elderly locals from the nearby village. Alertis (a charity dedicated to finding new homes for the bears) staff also monitor the bears and try and carry out health checks when they can.
What sort of support will the bears need when they arrive at Wildwood?
The bears will need a wide-range of health checks and procedures. They will need an extensive course of dentistry as many of their teeth will need to be re-built after years of neglect. They will need a long-term care plan to improve their diet and to introduce new foods (that they will have never seen before) and to teach them how to eat these new foods. The biggest task will be their slow rehabilitation to teach them how to display their natural behaviour. This will be a huge challenge but we are extremely lucky to have the help of one of the UK's leading experts on bear behaviour who is helping Wildwood with the project.
When will the bears arrive at Wildwood?
We hope to have the funds to remove the bears from Kormisosh before the end of the 2014 as we cannot risk leaving them over the harsh Bulgarian winter. As Bulgaria is a country with a risk of rabies, the bears will need a long quarantine period; this may be at Wildwood or at another European zoo. Once the bears are at Wildwood and past their quarantine phase, we cannot be sure how long they will need until they are comfortable enough to be on display to the public. We will take the pace as fast or as slow as the bears' require us to.