Jambolina the 'world's loneliest bear' dies months after being saved from captivity

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A bear dubbed the world’s loneliest after living most of her life in a cage at a circus has died just months after being rescued. 

Jambolina, who had lived inside a cage at a Ukrainian circus since she was just a few weeks old, was rescued in December last year and brought to a Swiss alpine reserve to live out the remainder of her days.  

The 12-year-old European brown bear had immediately settled down to hibernate – something she had been unable to do while in captivity – and only woke from her slumber in May this year.

But she sadly died just two months later, on August 5, after being sedated so that a routine operation could take place.

Jambolina, a 12-year-old European brown bear, lived for more than a decade inside this cage at a Ukrainian circus before being rescued and taken to a Swiss Alps reserve

Jambolina, a 12-year-old European brown bear, lived for more than a decade inside this cage at a Ukrainian circus before being rescued and taken to a Swiss Alps reserve

Jambolina spent her first winter at the reserve hibernating - something she had never done in captivity - and only woke from her slumber in May this year (pictured)

Jambolina spent her first winter at the reserve hibernating – something she had never done in captivity – and only woke from her slumber in May this year (pictured)

Keepers said that Jambolina was initially shy and timid after arriving at her new home, but quickly adjusted to having space to roam around in - with one of her first moves being to bathe in a lake (pictured)

Keepers said that Jambolina was initially shy and timid after arriving at her new home, but quickly adjusted to having space to roam around in – with one of her first moves being to bathe in a lake (pictured)

‘It is with heavy hearts and deepest sadness that we have to inform you that Jambolina suddenly and unexpectedly passed away,’ a spokesman for animal charity Four Paws wrote on social media.

‘Shortly after Jambolina received her anaesthetic injection, her breathing stopped for reasons that are still unknown.

‘Despite all efforts to resuscitate her, she unfortunately passed away. We are currently investigating what caused Jambolina’s death.’

Jambolina’s sad story had begun at a zoo in Crimea in 2009, when she was born to captive bears kept on display there.

At just a few weeks old, she was taken away from her parents and sold to a circus, where she was kept in a small cage and trained to perform tricks for crowds – using methods that animal campaigners say amount to torture.

She lived for more than a decade in the cage, having never seen another bear or been allowed to engage in any natural behaviour.

After waking up, she was introduced to her first ever bear companion - a male named Meimo (pictured, the pair playing together in spring this year)

After waking up, she was introduced to her first ever bear companion – a male named Meimo (pictured, the pair playing together in spring this year)

Animal behaviour specialists at the Swiss sanctuary said Jambolina and Meimo quickly began play-fighting, which is a normal social activity for a bear and shows that the pair are bonding

Animal behaviour specialists at the Swiss sanctuary said Jambolina and Meimo quickly began play-fighting, which is a normal social activity for a bear and shows that the pair are bonding

Meimo had been rescued from captivity in Albanian in February 2019 and was kept in isolation at the sanctuary before being introduced to Jambolina in spring this year

Meimo had been rescued from captivity in Albanian in February 2019 and was kept in isolation at the sanctuary before being introduced to Jambolina in spring this year

Jambolina and Meimo are pictured bathing together at the sanctuary, with experts saying the two had bonded well before Jambolina tragically died in this week

Jambolina and Meimo are pictured bathing together at the sanctuary, with experts saying the two had bonded well before Jambolina tragically died in this week

However, all that changed with the arrival of the Covid pandemic which meant the circus could no longer stage performances.

Unable to earn money, Jambolina’s owner was forced to get rid of her because he could not afford to feed and care for her.

Four Paws animal charity agreed to rescue the bear, and on December 8 she was sedated and loaded into a crate so she could be taken to Switzerland.

It took four days to move her more than 1,500 miles to the Swiss Alps, where she was given a new home at the Arosa Bear Land sanctuary.

Staff said she was nervous and timid when she first arrived, but soon took to her new mountain home – bathing in lakes and running around fields.

Despite having never hibernated in captivity, Jambolina’s natural instincts quickly kicked in and she settled down for her first-ever winter nap in December.

After waking in May, she was introduced to the first bear companion she had ever known – a male called Meimo who also lived on the reserve since being rescued from captivity in the Albanian city of Shkodra in February 2019.

The pair were pictured playing together, and staff were pleased with the progress that Jambolina was making.

Jambolina is pictured early after her arrival at the bear sanctuary, adjusting to her new conditions inside an enclosure before being allowed to roam around outside

Jambolina is pictured early after her arrival at the bear sanctuary, adjusting to her new conditions inside an enclosure before being allowed to roam around outside

On August 5, vets had sedated Jambolina to carry out routine surgery and dental reconstruction when she suddenly stopped breathing and could not be revived

On August 5, vets had sedated Jambolina to carry out routine surgery and dental reconstruction when she suddenly stopped breathing and could not be revived

It had taken animal rescuers four days to transport Jambolina the 1,500 miles from captivity to the bear sanctuary - but in the end she lived there for just a few months before dying

It had taken animal rescuers four days to transport Jambolina the 1,500 miles from captivity to the bear sanctuary – but in the end she lived there for just a few months before dying

Scientific director Dr Hans Schmid said it took only a few minutes for the two of them to bond and engage in a bear fight, which corresponds to the natural behaviour of brown bears.

After their combat, Jambolina laid on her back which according to experts meant she felt comfortable with the new situation in the two bears then treated themselves to a bath. 

To ensure the pair would not breed, staff needed to have Jambolina sterilised and also needed to carry out a dental reconstruction to undo years of damage caused in captivity, which would allow her to live a full life.

A team of experienced vets was assembled for the task, and on August 5 they sedated Jambolina to carry out the routine procedures.

However, shortly after being given an anesthetic, Jambolina stopped breathing and medics were unable to revive her.  

An autopsy, which is about to take place in the Swiss city of Zurich, should provide further information about any previous illnesses that Jambolina possibly suffered of that might explain her sudden death. 

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