The five cubs had lost their mothers at just a few months old and were raised by expert handlers that taught them the secrets to surviving on their own without human help, which they would have normally learned from their mothers.
The five young bears include Luigi, who was found wandering alone on a motorway in Klidi, Florina in April last year, and Sofia from Triantafyllia, Florina. The other three bears were sent to Arcturos from Bulgaria by the animal conservation group "Four Paws" to be included in Arcturos' rehabilitation programme.
The five cubs were kept separate from the other bears that are permanently resident in the Arcturos shelter so that they would not become accustomed to humans and learn to survive on their own.
Before being returned to the wild, the bears were sedated and subjected to medical tests, while Arcturos also took DNA samples, inserted a microchip and fitted each with a special radio-beacon tracking collar. They were then placed in transport cages and taken to their new homes.
Sofia and Luigi were set free in thick fog, in a forest far from human habitation in Greece, while Radostina, Jonas and Mitko were returned to Bulgarian authorities and Four Paws, with instructions from Arcturos for their safe release.
Dr. Alexandros Karamanlidis, the biologist who led the operation, noted that this was the first time that Arcturos had been enlisted to help in caring for bear cubs from Bulgaria, "which certifies the unique experience and expertise that its research team has in this field."
Arcturos will continue to monitor the five bears on a 24-hour basis via their tracking collars, in order to track their whereabouts and determine whether they have made a success of their life in the wild.