Rescue
Man travels 280 miles through Ukraine to rescue former circus bear
Masha lived as a circus animal for 19 years of her life. Three men drove 280 miles to war-torn Ukraine to save her and give her the life she deserved.
Cherie Gozon
05.17.22

So many lives were affected when war broke out in Ukraine.

Families – especially children and women – had to flee their homes to save themselves and not get trapped in the middle of a warzone. But you know who else is affected? Animals.

Unsplash - Leonhard Niederwimmer
Source:
Unsplash - Leonhard Niederwimmer

The sad thing is that as people fled from their cities and towns, some animals were left unattended. Some owners were able to take their pets along, but unfortunately for some stray, farm, and wild animals, they had no one to save them.

Thankfully, there were men like Lionel de Lange who never forgot about them.

Lionel works for the charity Warriors for Wildlife, which advocates rescuing wildlife animals bred out of captivity and finding them a new home or sanctuary closer to their natural habitat.

YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo

Warriors for Wildlife worked on saving a brown bear named Masha, who was bred and lived captive to perform in a Ukrainian circus. However, the war brought a unique challenge for them.

Lionel initially flew to Ukraine to transfer Masha to her new home.

But when the war broke out, he was forced to go back home to South Africa. He had to rethink their steps, especially since air travel was not an option anymore. He returned to the country on March 19 along with Richard Ashmore and Andrew Drury, a journalist and videographer.

YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo

They drove to Sambir, Ukraine, to take the 22-year-old Masha to her new home in Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania. It was a 280-mile journey that took the team around two days to complete.

They had to sedate Masha, but they didn’t give her too much since she had never been sedated before.

YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo

Around five people placed her in a crate at the back of a van. Lionel promised that it would be the last time Masha would be crated at the back of a van. He was confident that they could take this journey and free her.

Once everything was ready, they were off on their journey.

Every time the team had to stop by – whether for security checks or overall roadworthiness safety – they saw how people saw Masha as a symbol of hope.

They would open the back of their van so people could see that they were saving this wild animal in the middle of a war.

YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo

This isn’t the only way Lionel and his team help the people trying to cross the border. They also brought supplies and other basic needs that they gave away whenever they stopped by.

After two days on the road, they finally reached Masha’s new home.

They arrived and were received in their unloading area. The people from the sanctuary brought her to a holding room. Morning came, and they were finally ready to release Masha.

YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - The Dodo

It brought Lionel and his team joy to see the brown bear in her natural habitat. It was probably the first time she had seen another brown bear since she was born.

A few weeks after her rescue, Warriors for Wildlife had sad news.

Masha suffered from a stroke, and she crossed over the rainbow bridge. While the charity wishes she had more time to enjoy her freedom, they’re glad that she passed on in a safe place with wide-open spaces to enjoy. She inspired so much hope and courage in the people who witnessed her journey.

If you’d like to help Warriors of Wildlife with their lifesaving work, consider donating to their organization.

Check out a video about brave Masha below!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Cherie Gozon
hi@sbly.com
Cherie Gozon is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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