Home Back Forward August 28, 1998: Sorry for the long silence.

(sadly, no pictures this time: not enough power!)



From Charlie:

We have just been through several crises that has left us picking up some pieces but realize that it is the price you pay for working in a country going through difficult times. One of the hassles has been the weather! During the month of August we have only seen the sun for a few hours with the result that our solar batteries are so low that we were unable to use the computer for more than a few minutes each day. We reserved this for the communications we needed to resolve the other problems. Maureen and I don't know what we would have done without the satellite phone in this instance as it felt like our cubs lives were in big danger and it was a important link with Petropavlovsk that we have not had until this year. Neither of us knew quite how endangered we could feel given this type of situation. We decided that it is something about having grizzly cubs as a responsibility that make one really protective and fierce if necessary!

Our cub reintroduction and living with bears programs have bounced around between a couple of different Russian agencies since we first proposed it a couple years ago, both wanting it under their jurisdiction, one because they believed in the importance of what we were doing and the other for reasons that were a bit less admirable. The latter group did not understand the part about coexistence: the idea of people and bears being able to live peacefully together was so foreign to them that they were afraid of it and we were beginning to see that our days were numbered as far as being able to continue the program. We understood this attitude. After all, where else in the world would these ideas be understood enough for us to be let free to do what we were being allowed, so far, to do here? This group had been in charge of our work for the first two years and our cubs welfare really complicated how the problem was to be resolved as we worried that there were enough bad feelings that a decision could be made to kill them.

Just in the nick of time we were rescued by the agency that we wanted to work with from the beginning. It was a complicated power struggle that we are all to happy not to have understood.

Our relief was short lived when a week ago a helicopter came though a brief hole in the fog and deposited an inspector from the group that we were at odds with.. He claimed he had not been informed of the change in jurisdiction and took the liberty to just drop by for a couple weeks with an interpreter friend to monitor if our cubs were safe with people.

I was very afraid of this situation as we did not trust this person to even be around our cubs, let alone pass judgment about them as to their behavior.

Living in the wilderness in the fog and rain is difficult at the best of times! Maureen had to give up her studio space that she is working in full time, I had to go along with them in the rain, to make sure that nothing was done to our cubs that would make his prophecy come true. It would be easy to undo all that we had worked so hard to achieve. One mean thing could ruin our whole study.

The prospect of surviving two weeks of more bad weather cooped up with these people in our small cabin didn't look to good, especially when we suspected the worst about their intentions. Ordering in a helicopter would cost a minimum of $2,000. And we were told that they wouldn't get on it without his boss coming with orders for them to leave. The director of the agency who we thought we had an agreement with was in Moscow for ten days. To make an unpleasant story as short as possible, we discovered how many wonderful friends we have made here; in this country that grows on you, despite all the incredible difficulties that everyone seems to just take in stride with the air that they had seen it before and they would survive anything that was thrown at them. After a few phone calls we were rescued. A helicopter flight was donated and the people who were needed to get the unpleasant job done came at the first weather opening after six days. We are once again in our peaceful setting with the cubs decked out with their new hair and putting on so much weight from all the salmon they are catching, that you won't recognize them when we are once again able to spare the power to send a picture.

(This was a lot worse than we state here, but it's enough to give a bit of an idea of what we have been through without getting too down on anyone, which would not be hard. Sorry about the big gap.)

© Lenticular Productions Ltd. 1998