UK & World News
Russia Bans 'Sport' Of Shooting Sleeping Bears
The cruel practice of hunting sleeping bears as they hibernate has recently been banned in Russia.
But there are doubts as to whether it will make a difference to the thousands of cubs orphaned by the hunts each year.
Deep in a remote forest in the Tver region, eight baby brown bears are about to receive the third of their four daily feeds.
Normally they would be growing from their mother's milk in the warmth and safety of a natural den, but these babies are in an artificial one being fed by humans.
Their mothers were killed by hunters.
The three-month-olds are being nurtured and strengthened in preparation for their return to the wild.
For a national emblem, bears in Russia are not afforded much respect outside of this now world-renowned sanctuary.
Many cubs end up here or far worse, in circuses or the hands of street photographers, because of the so-called winter den hunt.
The practice involves sleeping bears being woken from hibernation.
Amateur footage taken by hunters shows bears emerging dazed and confused from their dens before being shot at point-blank range.
Inside, cubs are often left behind, unable to survive the Russian winter alone.
What was once a necessity is now a leisure activity for Russia's new rich - the company behind this video charges £5,000 to kill a bear.
Trophy-hunting foreigners are also willing to pay thousands to kill of one these majestic animals.
One online video boasts the added attraction of doing it from a tank.
Foreigners then pay to have the head and skin of the dead bear flown back home.
Bear skins are also sold on roadsides for about £600 each so the ban on the winter den hunt will affect business.
Local hunters say they will abide by the new law.
Encouraging words in a country where the rule of law is often, at best, inconsistent.
Those who lobbied tirelessly for the ban are also optimistic.
Masha Vorontsova is from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).
She said: "Those hunters who were hunting legally and buying a licence... will not do it any more, so it's already saving a lot of bears.
"But of course still we have the problem of illegal hunting - poaching - that is completely different.
"The ban will not stop the poaching and here is the matter of law enforcement."
Soon the babies will be weaned off their milk and porridge, and come early summer they will be released back into a slightly less perilous wilderness.
Thanks to tireless lobbying from campaigners, the future of one of the world's most persecuted animals may be a little brighter in their main vast and often unforgiving territory.
:: To find out more or donate to the IFAW Bear Rescue Centre in Russia visit www.ifaw.org under the section 'Bears'.