The world’s loneliest bear was able to experience freedom and friendship for the first time shortly before her death.
Jambolina, was a European brown bear whose life was life was filled with immense cruelty. The European brown bear, who died aged 12, lived most of her life as part of a circus in Crimea, Ukraine where she was kept inside a cage days after being born in January 2009.
She was forced to perform as a circus bear since she was purchased not longer after her birth to captive bears on display at Yalta Zoo in Crimea.
Jambolina was used for the next 12 years in the circus, where she was forced to perform tricks for crowds. Animal campaigners likened the training methods to torture.
She had never seen another bear nor had she been allowed to engage in natural bear behaviour during this part of her life. But this changed in the most unlikely way.
While the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was a time of immense anxiety and stress, for Jambolina it served as a silver lining.
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns meant that the circus could no longer put on performances.
Unable to earn a profit due to the cancelled performances, Jambolina’s owner was forced to get rid of her because they could no longer afford to pay for her upkeep.
Animal charity Four Paws agreed to rescue the captive bear who was held in a tiny cage in the owner's garage.
“She could barely move in the cage, and not even able to stand upright,” the charity described on its website.
She arrived at her new home in Switzerland on 11 December 2020, following a four-day drive covering over 2,400 kilometres in a special wild animal transporter.
She was then taken by snowcat and cable car to Arosa Bear Sanctuary and given a new chance at life.
The charity shared updates about Jambolina’s progress and details on how she settled into her new home. “After just a few days, it turns out that she is very active, likes to play with logs and loves to frolic through the snow," it said.
“Although the female is occasionally showing some stereotypical behaviour due to the many years in captivity.
“We hope that Jambolina can at one stage, leave these traumas behind and rediscover her natural instincts soon!
“The team at Arosa Bear Sanctuary are doing everything in their power to offer Jambolina a living space that is as natural as possible so that she can cope with the lengthy process of rehabilitation as best as possible.”
In January 2021, just one month at the bear sanctuary, the charity reported that she had started to show ‘more natural behaviour’.
Jambolina explored her new habitat in the Swiss mountains over time. All the space amongst the gorgeous trees and mountains was surely a huge relief for the bear.
It is with heavy hearts & deepest sadness that we have to inform you that bear Jambolina suddenly and unexpectedly passed away today shortly before a surgery in #ArosaBaerenland 💔. 📸 © Stiftung Arosa Bären | VIER PFOTEN pic.twitter.com/P2jAxUVhqD— FOUR PAWS (@fourpawsint) August 5, 2021
She even settled down to hibernate, something she was unable to do in captivity. She awoke from her slumber in May 2021.
The good news didn’t end there. In June 2021 she became ‘lovebirds’ with another bear named Meimo. The couple met for the first time without a gate separating them that month and after sniffing each other, their date involved rolling on the grass and wrestled.
Jambolina’s newfound happiness was short-lived as she died ‘suddenly’ and ‘unexpectedly’ on 5 August 2021.
She was due to undergo a routine operation for painful dental problems but her breathing stopped shortly after being given her anaesthetic injection.
“It is with heavy hearts and deepest sadness that we have to inform you that bear Jambolina suddenly and unexpectedly passed away today shortly before a surgery in Arosa Bear Sanctuary,” the charity announced.
“Despite all efforts to resuscitate her, she unfortunately passed away. We are currently investigating what caused Jambolina's death. We will keep you informed.
A post-mortem report from the Institute of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Zurich identified that Jambolina’s cause of death was due to acute cardiovascular failure.
Rest in peace, Jambolina.