Brown bears are among the most endangered mammals in Greece. A pair of orphaned bear cubs named Little John and Nikitas have been released back in to the wild after being rescued and spending nine months in a rehabilitation centre.

After attempts to reunite the three-month-old cubs with their mothers failed, they were taken to the Arcturos Bear Rehabilitation Centre. Its scientific director, Dr Alexandros Karamanlidis, told BBC Nature: "This was the first time that Arcturos had rehabilitated bear cubs for release back into the wild."

During their stay, Little John and Nikitas learned essential survival skills in a 10 hectare enclosure. This piece of natural forest provided controlled conditions similar to the brown bears' natural habitat.

In preparation for the cubs' release, a den was dug for them within the brown bears’ natural range in northwestern Greece. It took the team nearly three days to prepare as they had to dig through a metre of snow and then set up a webcam inside.
Little John and Nikitas were sedated and carefully examined by vets from the Veterinary School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on the day of their release.The bear cubs are tracked using satellite and satellite collars which were fitted to the cubs before they were released. To save battery power the collars will not go online until the bears leave the den in the spring.

It took four men to carry the sedated bear cubs to the den. At less than 50kg each they were not particularly heavy, said Dr Karamanlidis. It was the deep snow that made the transportation to the den difficult.

After waking up from the sedation in their new den, Little John and Nikitas began to explore their new home. One sniff of the cold air and they both went back inside to continue the hibernation they began in the rehabilitation centre in December. "I was delighted to see them the next morning," said Dr Karamanlidis.

With the bears captured on the den webcam successfully hibernating until spring, Dr Karamanlidis told BBC Nature: "This has been a very innovative project for Greece and a valuable tool for conservation of brown bear populations throughout Europe."


Responses to "Orphaned bear cubs released in wild in Greece (Photos)"

  1. jennifer says:

    I didn't realise that there were bears in Greece, learn something everyday :)

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