Refugee Bear Finds a Home

Yampil, an Asian black bear, standing on four legs and enjoying sun in his enclosure at Five Sisters Zoo, in Scotland.
Yampil, an Asian black bear, has found a new home in Scotland (source)

The war in Ukraine has taken a terrible toll. In addition to the deaths of soldiers and civilians, infrastructure has been destroyed, and survivors have been forced to leave their homes, their towns, and even their country to find safety. Almost six million Ukrainian refugees have moved to other European countries, especially Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

During a tragedy, animals can sometimes be forgotten. One furry creature, an Asian black bear named Yampil, has fortunately found a home far from the war zone. Yampil was living in a private zoo in the Donetsk region, an area that has seen direct conflict between opposing armies. Ukrainian soldiers found him in an abandoned private zoo where other animals had died from shrapnel, bullets, starvation, and thirst. Yampil, though injured and skinny, had amazingly survived.

Yampil has since gone on quite the journey, first to Kyiv, then to a zoo in Poland, and then to an animal rescue center in Belgium, where he spent seven months. For the final stage of his travel, he crossed the English Channel and was taken to the Five Sisters Zoo in Scotland. Upon arrival, Yampil ate cucumbers and watermelon, and so far seems to be settling in well.

Asian black bears live all over Asia from Iran to Japan. They are considered to be a vulnerable species because of deforestation and poaching. Their body parts are used in traditional medicines in some cultures.

Yampil, however, is now safe in his new home.


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Worksheet with activities


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Useful Language

  • Refugee (n) - a person who has left their home or country because of danger
  • To take a toll (idiom) - to cause damage
  • Civilian (n) - a person who is not in the armed forces or an organization like the police
  • Infrastructure (n) - the systems and structures that a country uses to work, such as roads, bridges, electricity, etc.
  • Abandoned (adj) - left permanently by its owner or guardian
  • Shrapnel (n) - pieces of metal that are thrown when a bullet or bomb explodes
  • Starvation (n) - having no food for a long time, which can cause death
  • Thirst (n) - the need or desire to drink
  • Skinny (adj) - thin
  • Vulnerable (adj) - in danger of being hurt or killed
  • Deforestation (n) - cutting down trees so that forests get smaller or disappear
  • Poaching (n) - illegal hunting


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What did you think about this story? Was there any surprising information?
  2. Do you like zoos? What is good or bad about them?
  3. Have you ever seen a bear in real life? Where was it? What was it doing?
  4. Besides cucumbers and watermelon, what do you think a bear likes to eat?
  5. What do you know about Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic?
  6. If your country became dangerous, where would you go?
  7. When people are in danger, should they stop to help animals or think about their own safety first?
  8. Are you interested in visiting Scotland? What is Scotland known for?
  9. What do you think about poaching?
  10. Which do you think is worse, hunger or thirst?