FATHER Valentin and son Sergei Pazhetnov were former hunters. But now they specialise in training orphan bears to survive in Russia's deep forests. With help from international donations, the Pazhetnovs have raised and released 64 bear orphans in the last eight years. The facility is the only one of its kind in Russia. The orphanage is unique in the sense that the environment is deliberately kept unfriendly and tense. The bears are taught with "tough love" and the contact with the humans is kept at a minimum. Any gesture of friendliness from the bears is met with hostility. The reason behind all this is simple. Sustained and regular contact with humans makes the bears too trusting and at times the bears are seen running up to the hunters for a friendly pat.
According to Simon Pope of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the organisation which funds the orphanage: "What they are doing is making sure these bears retain their biological fear of humans". Ironically, most of the cubs are brought to the orphanage by hunters who have killed a mother bear.