Authors: Maryna Shkvyria, Yegor Yakovlev

Chada (in the past Chado) belongs to a rare subspecies of the Tien Shan brown bear, Ursus arctos isabellinus Horsfield, 18261. These animals are included in the IUCN Red List as an endangered (EN, endangered) subspecies2. In the wild, on the territory of the Western Himalayas3, there are only a few hundred of them left. They live in the range from zero to 5,000 meters above sea level4.

Her father and, at the same time, grandfather, Sultan, along with his sister Dinara, were presented during a tour in 1976 in Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Oleg Kapitonovych Chepyakov, a well-known artist of Creative and production association «SoyuzGosTsirk» at that time. It is not known whether the bear cubs were obtained in nature during poaching in the den or bred in captivity. He transferred them to the Kyiv State Zoo the following year, where during the Soviet times the so-called «Theatre of Animals» operated. Chada’s mother, Chara, was born to Dinara in 1986 already in captivity, in the Kyiv State Zoo.

Sultan and Chara at the Kyiv Zoo (2003). Photo: Tetyana Kachan

We do not have direct evidence regarding the exploitation of the Tien Shan bears in particular, but it is worth noting that Oleg Chepyakov actively used and selected brown bears for this purpose in the circus performance «Bears riding Horses»5. As the circus journalist Nikolay Krivienko wrote 6:

«Excellent tricks – the bear jumps from one running horse to another, a standing horse on its hind legs with a bear on its back – will become even more winning if the «climate» of the trick is somewhat softened, the tension that is felt today during the performance is smoothed out.»

Unfortunately, the trick was quite popular, it was shown even on foreign tours almost until the beginning of the 2000s.

Trick «Bears riding Horses» performed by Lyubov Chepyakova, Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), 1989. Source: page of circus journalist Hryhori Harutyunyan7

Chada was born on Christmas Day, December 24, 1998. She was already sold to the National Circus of Ukraine from early childhood. Unfortunately, this was the usual practice before the advent of European standards. She spent twelve years on wheels, travelling on tour and in travelling circus shows.

Ultimately, the rest of the owners abandoned her in a small rusty cage in an industrial zone in Bilogorodka near Kyiv. The bear spent the next seven years there8. Chada was noticed by activists and, since there were no free places at the rehabilitation centres at that time, Chada was taken to a private zoo in the village of Vasylivka (Zaporizhia oblast)9 10. There, she was not abused, she was fed and cared for, but the conditions of keeping were still not acceptable for a bear. Unfortunately, this private zoo is located on territory nowadays occupied by russian troops.

Finally, on July 16, 2019, Chada came to us at «White rock»11. She has very poor eyesight and is missing eleven teeth. Chada had a difficult life but remained a fighter. And she became the star of our bear family because of her character and zest for life.

The story of Chada the bear is not only the story of one animal, life in slavery and end-of-life rescue. This is the tragedy of the endangered brown bear subspecies. It is absurd that at the same time, these wonderful animals almost disappeared in nature due to the fragmentation of their habitat and the irresponsible attitude of nature users, part of the population lived in circuses for senseless performances, dispersing the conservation potential of the reserve gene pool.

Used sources

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