Rescued little bears Coco and Luca prepare for life in the wild after mother was saved from a cage

Nibbling on fruit and walking through mountains, two brown bear cubs play with their mother after she was rescued from a squalid cage in Armenia.

Coco and Luca have been nurtured in a sanctuary after their pregnant mother Dasha was last year saved from a riverside restaurant where she was locked up to entertain diners.

The pair were a shock arrival for rescuers who didn’t realise she was pregnant until the birth. 

Safe and sound: Two brown bear cubs play with their mother after she was rescued from a squalid cage in Armenia

Safe and sound: Two brown bear cubs play with their mother after she was rescued from a squalid cage in Armenia

Safe and sound: Two brown bear cubs play with their mother after she was rescued from a squalid cage in Armenia

Coco and Luca have been nurtured in a sanctuary after their pregnant mother Dash was last year saved from a riverside restaurant where she was locked up to entertain diners

Coco and Luca have been nurtured in a sanctuary after their pregnant mother Dash was last year saved from a riverside restaurant where she was locked up to entertain diners

Coco and Luca have been nurtured in a sanctuary after their pregnant mother Dash was last year saved from a riverside restaurant where she was locked up to entertain diners

The pair (pictured eating in the sanctuary) were a shock arrival for rescuers who didn't realise she was pregnant until the birth

The pair (pictured eating in the sanctuary) were a shock arrival for rescuers who didn't realise she was pregnant until the birth

The pair (pictured eating in the sanctuary) were a shock arrival for rescuers who didn’t realise she was pregnant until the birth

Dasha had been kept behind a welded metal cage for ten years while diners watched them from a riverside restaurant (pictured)

Dasha had been kept behind a welded metal cage for ten years while diners watched them from a riverside restaurant (pictured)

Dasha had been kept behind a welded metal cage for ten years while diners watched them from a riverside restaurant (pictured)

Since the rescue, the seven-month-olds and their mother have been in a special enclosure with minimum human contact, a crucial step to surviving in the Armenian hills from next spring.

Alan Knight, head of Sussex-based International Animal Rescue, said: ‘At first, we thought Dasha had fallen ill, but it soon became clear she was pregnant. First one little head appeared, then we realised another cub was on the way. It was an amazing moment.’

Dasha finally tasted freedom in October last year after spending her life in welded cages as entertainment for  diners at a riverside restaurant.

Since the rescue, the seven-month-olds and their mother have been in a special enclosure with minimum human contact, a crucial step to surviving in the Armenian hills from next spring

Since the rescue, the seven-month-olds and their mother have been in a special enclosure with minimum human contact, a crucial step to surviving in the Armenian hills from next spring

Since the rescue, the seven-month-olds and their mother have been in a special enclosure with minimum human contact, a crucial step to surviving in the Armenian hills from next spring

Alan Knight, head of Sussex-based International Animal Rescue, said: 'At first, we thought Dasha had fallen ill, but it soon became clear she was pregnant. First one little head appeared, then we realised another cub was on the way. It was an amazing moment'

Alan Knight, head of Sussex-based International Animal Rescue, said: 'At first, we thought Dasha had fallen ill, but it soon became clear she was pregnant. First one little head appeared, then we realised another cub was on the way. It was an amazing moment'

Alan Knight, head of Sussex-based International Animal Rescue, said: ‘At first, we thought Dasha had fallen ill, but it soon became clear she was pregnant. First one little head appeared, then we realised another cub was on the way. It was an amazing moment’

Dasha finally tasted freedom in October last year after spending her life in welded cages. Pictured: Her cubs

Dasha finally tasted freedom in October last year after spending her life in welded cages. Pictured: Her cubs

Dasha finally tasted freedom in October last year after spending her life in welded cages. Pictured: Her cubs

Dasha had been kept behind bars in a cramped enclosure near the Armenian capital Yerevan for the last ten years, begging for scraps from restaurant customers. Pictured: Her cub is safe and sound

Dasha had been kept behind bars in a cramped enclosure near the Armenian capital Yerevan for the last ten years, begging for scraps from restaurant customers. Pictured: Her cub is safe and sound

Dasha had been kept behind bars in a cramped enclosure near the Armenian capital Yerevan for the last ten years, begging for scraps from restaurant customers. Pictured: Her cub is safe and sound

The two cubs (pictured eating fruit alongside their mother) came as a surprise to rescuers who did not know she was pregnant

The two cubs (pictured eating fruit alongside their mother) came as a surprise to rescuers who did not know she was pregnant

The two cubs (pictured eating fruit alongside their mother) came as a surprise to rescuers who did not know she was pregnant

The bears cubs are being looked after in a sanctuary in Armenia and will be released into the wild in spring next year

The bears cubs are being looked after in a sanctuary in Armenia and will be released into the wild in spring next year

The bears cubs are being looked after in a sanctuary in Armenia and will be released into the wild in spring next year

She was saved along with another bear, Misha, who has since died from medical complications. 

Misha and Dasha had been kept behind bars in a cramped enclosure near the Armenian capital Yerevan for the last ten years, begging for scraps from restaurant customers.

But after MailOnline highlighted their plight, readers donated thousands of pounds and the two malnourished and traumatised animals were finally freed. 

Pictures show firefighters cutting open their cages before British and Armenian rescuers sedated them and transported them to a vast new enclosure, high up in the mountains.

Heartwarming pictures capture the moment two starving bears finally tasted freedom after spending years in welded cages watching families dine at a riverside restaurant in Armenia

Heartwarming pictures capture the moment two starving bears finally tasted freedom after spending years in welded cages watching families dine at a riverside restaurant in Armenia

Heartwarming pictures capture the moment two starving bears finally tasted freedom after spending years in welded cages watching families dine at a riverside restaurant in Armenia

The bears had been kept behind bars in an enclosure near the capital Yerevan, living at the mercy of bored diners for the last ten yearsA

The bears had been kept behind bars in an enclosure near the capital Yerevan, living at the mercy of bored diners for the last ten yearsA

The bears had been kept behind bars in an enclosure near the capital Yerevan, living at the mercy of bored diners for the last ten years

after a public outcry over their living conditions, the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

after a public outcry over their living conditions, the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

Pictures show firefighters cutting open their cages before British and Armenian rescuers sedated them and transported them to a new home 

After a public outcry over their living conditions, the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

After a public outcry over their living conditions, the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

After a public outcry over their living conditions, the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

These brown bears, and many more like them, have lived their entire lives inside small cages for the entertainment of diners and shoppers across Armenia. 

The former Soviet country has long had a tradition of capturing and keeping bears, and despite progress in many other areas, animal rights are behind the times in Armenia. 

It is not uncommon to spot a bear in a tiny cage at a restaurant, bus depot, shopping centre or a factory. They are often caught as cubs and spend their lives in captivity in order to attract tourists or simply entertain its owners. 

However, British charity International Animal Rescue (IAR) is launching The Great Bear Rescue, aimed at freeing dozens of caged bears in Armenia.

These brown bears, and many more like them, have lived their entire lives inside small cages for the entertainment of diners and shoppers across Armenia

These brown bears, and many more like them, have lived their entire lives inside small cages for the entertainment of diners and shoppers across Armenia

These brown bears, and many more like them, have lived their entire lives inside small cages for the entertainment of diners and shoppers across Armenia

The animals were tranquilized before firefighters used cutting equipment to create an opening in their metal cage

The animals were tranquilized before firefighters used cutting equipment to create an opening in their metal cage

The animals were tranquilized before firefighters used cutting equipment to create an opening in their metal cage

The former Soviet country has long had a tradition of capturing and keeping bears, and despite progress in many other areas, animal rights are behind the times in Armenia

The former Soviet country has long had a tradition of capturing and keeping bears, and despite progress in many other areas, animal rights are behind the times in Armenia

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The former Soviet country has long had a tradition of capturing and keeping bears, and despite progress in many other areas, animal rights are behind the times in Armenia

Misha and Dasha, who had been kept for the amusement of patrons in a cage half-submerged in water at a riverside restaurant - were loaded on to a truck to be transported to a specially built sanctuary high in the mountains

Misha and Dasha, who had been kept for the amusement of patrons in a cage half-submerged in water at a riverside restaurant - were loaded on to a truck to be transported to a specially built sanctuary high in the mountains

Misha and Dasha, who had been kept for the amusement of patrons in a cage half-submerged in water at a riverside restaurant – were loaded on to a truck to be transported to a specially built sanctuary high in the mountains

Misha and Dasha were put in to individual transport containers before being loaded on to a truck and taken to a spacious new enclosure in the mountains

Misha and Dasha were put in to individual transport containers before being loaded on to a truck and taken to a spacious new enclosure in the mountains

Misha and Dasha were put in to individual transport containers before being loaded on to a truck and taken to a spacious new enclosure in the mountains

Misha and Dasha, who had been kept for the amusement of patrons in a cage half-submerged in water at a riverside restaurant – were loaded on to a truck to be transported to a specially built sanctuary high in the mountains.

There they will live out the rest of their lives in peace in a vast enclosure – no longer dependent on the scraps thrown to them by diners.

Their freedom was won by East Sussex-based International Animal Rescue (IAR), led on the ground by its CEO Alan Knight, OBE.

Local group FPWC (Federation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets) which is working with IAR on the rescue campaign, secured the full cooperation of the Armenian government to rescue the bears which otherwise were destined to spend their rest of their lives in captivity.

The bears will live out the rest of their lives in peace in a vast enclosure - no longer dependent on the scraps thrown to them by diners

The bears will live out the rest of their lives in peace in a vast enclosure - no longer dependent on the scraps thrown to them by diners

The bears will live out the rest of their lives in peace in a vast enclosure – no longer dependent on the scraps thrown to them by diners

Vet Rosa Jolma prepares to tranquilize one of the giant bears before the rescuers could move in to lift the animals out

Vet Rosa Jolma prepares to tranquilize one of the giant bears before the rescuers could move in to lift the animals out

Vet Rosa Jolma prepares to tranquilize one of the giant bears before the rescuers could move in to lift the animals out

Freedom: It took at least eight rescuers to lift each of the bears to safety from their cage on the banks of a river

Freedom: It took at least eight rescuers to lift each of the bears to safety from their cage on the banks of a river

Freedom: It took at least eight rescuers to lift each of the bears to safety from their cage on the banks of a river

If all goes well Dasha, a female, and Misha, a male, will be the first of up to 80 bears that the charity will free from hellhole conditions across Armenia in the coming months

If all goes well Dasha, a female, and Misha, a male, will be the first of up to 80 bears that the charity will free from hellhole conditions across Armenia in the coming months

If all goes well Dasha, a female, and Misha, a male, will be the first of up to 80 bears that the charity will free from hellhole conditions across Armenia in the coming months

If all goes well Dasha, a female, and Misha, a male, will be the first of up to 80 bears that the charity will free from hellhole conditions across Armenia in the coming months.

Great strides in education and social conditions have been achieved in the former Soviet republic since communism fell. But the keeping of bears – in factories, in restaurants and even at shopping malls – persists.

Now the government has pledged its support to IAR to free the bears from their suffering. Thousands of pounds have been donated by MailOnline readers after their plight was highlighted a week ago and this money is being spent on the rescue programme.

When rescuers arrived they found the two bears clawing at their metal cages and looking longingly at the outside world

When rescuers arrived they found the two bears clawing at their metal cages and looking longingly at the outside world

When rescuers arrived they found the two bears clawing at their metal cages and looking longingly at the outside world

When rescuers arrived they found the two bears clawing at their metal cages and looking longingly at the outside world

When rescuers arrived they found the two bears clawing at their metal cages and looking longingly at the outside world

The bears had been held in a welded cage at the restaurant for 10 years and were described as being malnourished after their rescue

The bears had been held in a welded cage at the restaurant for 10 years and were described as being malnourished after their rescue

The bears had been held in a welded cage at the restaurant for 10 years and were described as being malnourished after their rescue

After MailOnline highlighted their plight, readers donated thousands of pounds and the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

After MailOnline highlighted their plight, readers donated thousands of pounds and the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

After MailOnline highlighted their plight, readers donated thousands of pounds and the two malnourished and traumatised animals have finally been freed

IAR patron, Line of Duty actor Neil Morrissey, said: ‘Now that the plight of these poor bears has come to light, I know IAR won’t turn its back on them.

‘I’m with them all the way on this rescue mission. After years of misery and neglect, an end to the bears’ suffering can’t come soon enough.’

Mr. Knight said at the scene: ‘I can’t thank the Armenian government enough, particularly the environment ministry, for their help in allowing this rescue to go ahead.

‘I must also thank our partners FPWC for their tireless efforts to set these bears free.

The restaurant where the bears were kept cooperated in the rescue and the bears have now been transported to a new home

The restaurant where the bears were kept cooperated in the rescue and the bears have now been transported to a new home

The restaurant where the bears were kept cooperated in the rescue and the bears have now been transported to a new home

Fire crews use specialist cutting equipment to open up the cage while one of the bears paces up and down its enclosure

Fire crews use specialist cutting equipment to open up the cage while one of the bears paces up and down its enclosure

Fire crews use specialist cutting equipment to open up the cage while one of the bears paces up and down its enclosure

Rescuers say that many captive bears relieve their boredom and ­frustration by 'pacing endlessly to and fro, banging their heads against the walls or climbing up the bars'

Rescuers say that many captive bears relieve their boredom and ­frustration by 'pacing endlessly to and fro, banging their heads against the walls or climbing up the bars'

Rescuers say that many captive bears relieve their boredom and ­frustration by ‘pacing endlessly to and fro, banging their heads against the walls or climbing up the bars’

The bears were gently carried into special containers ahead of their journey to a sanctuary in the mountains where they will live out the rest of their days

The bears were gently carried into special containers ahead of their journey to a sanctuary in the mountains where they will live out the rest of their days

The bears were gently carried into special containers ahead of their journey to a sanctuary in the mountains where they will live out the rest of their days

The bears were lifted on to a waiting truck before being driven to their new home, a 'vast enclosure' in the Armenian mountains

The bears were lifted on to a waiting truck before being driven to their new home, a 'vast enclosure' in the Armenian mountains

The bears were lifted on to a waiting truck before being driven to their new home, a ‘vast enclosure’ in the Armenian mountains

Great strides in education and social conditions have been achieved in the former Soviet republic since communism fell. But the keeping of bears - in factories, in restaurants and even at shopping malls - persists

Great strides in education and social conditions have been achieved in the former Soviet republic since communism fell. But the keeping of bears - in factories, in restaurants and even at shopping malls - persists

Great strides in education and social conditions have been achieved in the former Soviet republic since communism fell. But the keeping of bears – in factories, in restaurants and even at shopping malls – persists

‘Even the restaurant which owned the bears cooperated with us and for that I am grateful too.

‘But these are only the first. Our Great Bear Rescue intends to free many more.

‘Some have been living for years in small, barren cages, surviving only on scraps and filthy, stagnant water.

‘Many of them relieve their boredom and ­frustration by pacing endlessly to and fro, banging their heads against the walls or climbing up the bars, searching ­frantically for an escape route. It is heartbreaking and we are determined to bring it to end.’  

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