WILDLIFE filmmaker Gordon Buchanan has urged Scots to cut waste to help save endangered species.
His appeal comes after he saw first-hand the devastating consequences while working on an emotional programme about Russian bears.
Grizzly Bear Cubs And Me tells the remarkable story of six cubs, orphaned and facing certain death in the wilderness.
Their survival lay in the hands of Gordon, 46, and Sergey and Katya Pazhetnov, biologists for whom saving bears has become such a necessity they’ve devoted their lives to it.
Gordon said: “To help protect not just grizzlies but many other creatures in the natural world, we all need to look more closely at how we live our lives.
“We are all inter-connected. Trees that are being felled in Russia, end up in warehouses in the UK, so we can’t say this is a Russian problem.
“If we want animals living in wild habitats we need to be more conscious of what we use and minimise our waste.
“People want to do the right thing and need to be better informed about needless consumption.
“But it’s not all bad news. There are committed, passionate people like the Pazhetnovs doing amazing things and making the natural world a better place.” There are thought to be around 100,000 brown bears in Russia but the infants fall victim to loggers and hunters.
They live underground in dens which are often disturbed as they are hidden by snow.
If the mothers are killed or scared away, the cubs will die within a couple of days in the -30 degree temperature.
Gordon – who is to receive an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society next month in Perth – has filmed bears across the world but had been looking to make a film about grizzlies when he heard about the Pazhetnovs. They live in remote woodland in Bubonitsy, north west of Moscow, and have been rescuing and rehabilitating bears for 20 years.
They have had more than 20 bear cubs at any one time, but when Gordon first arrived, they had six little souls, three pairs of brothers.
Slava and Pasha were found in a bin near Moscow, Tolya and Tyoma were left in a box outside a St Petersburg vets and Zhenya and Zhora were handed in by loggers.
Gordon got more hands-on than he ever has before, helping to feed and nurse them back to health.
“They had to be fed every three or four hours,” said Gordon, who made four trips to Russia, from February to October. “It was very reminiscent of when my own kids were small and just as noisy.
“You had to feed and clean them up but not give the physical care they’d get from their mother. You don’t want there to be an emotional connection, so it has to be quite perfunctory.
“You have to be cold and minimise that contact so they will still have an instinctive fear of humans by the time they go into the wild.
“I don’t think I went for a full-on hug, but I did linger a little too long holding one of the cubs and Katya had to tell me to put him down.
“I made four different trips, starting in February and finishing in October and the change over that period was amazing. At the start they weighed the same as a bag of sugar and by the time they left you’re talking about nearly 50kg.”
And saying goodbye for the last time was different from what he’d expected.
“It was emotional for Katya but I didn’t feel sad at all,” he said.
“I found it uplifting as I realised I’d been a part of something special.
“It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever done. In the future I’ll think of those bears a lot and wonder how they are getting on in the world having had such a rough start in life.”
Grizzly Bear Cubs And Me, December 18 and 19 at 9pm on BBC Two.