The skeleton of a bear that had been killes by a poisoned bait has been reconstructed
Reportage by Ms. Natasha Karathanou from the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency about the action of the Department of Visual and Applied Arts of Florina:
Piece by piece, like a giant puzzle of… bones, scientists have reconstructed the skeleton of a bear that died from poisoned bait and is now on display, as a reminder of the deadly illegal practice, in the building of the former Primary School of Psarades, Prespes. The project was launched three years ago in the framework of the Artistic March to Prespes with the participation of the municipality of Prespes, the Management Authority of the Prespes National Park, the Department of Visual and Applied Arts of the University of Western Macedonia and the Environmental Organization “Callisto”.
As explained by the coordinator and artistic director of the process, professor at the University of Western Macedonia, Yannis Ziogas, in April 2012 the large male bear died in Psarades,Prespes, opposite the village, poisoned by a poisoned bait. Because the dead animal’s carcass weighed almost 300 kg, it was difficult to transport it and it was not possible to dig a pit to bury it because the ground is rocky. It was then decided by the Management Authority of the Prespes National Park to cover it with stones and 8 years later, the students of the 1st Painting Workshop/Visual March to Prespes explored the location.
“In the context of the Visual March to Prespes, an action of the 1st Workshop of the Creative part of the Department of Visual and Applied Arts of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Western Macedonia and the participation of the Faculty in the LIFE ARCPROM project, the exhumation of the bear was decided and carried out. In the summer of 2020, the Ministry of Environment and Energy gave the permits, the action was approved by the Management Authority of the Prespes National Park and a team was organized to implement the exhumation of the animal” says Mr. Ziogas. The bones of the animal were sent to the Natural History Museum of Crete to be cleaned of fat and other remains and fixed and when they were returned, the reconstruction of the skeleton was undertaken in October 2023 by Milica Ivovich, PhD in Zoology with her partner Konstantinos Mavraganis.
“It was a very special experience,” says Ms. Ivovich, who has reconstructed skeletons of dolphin, seal, turtle and bird skeletons, but this was the first time she had ever worked with a bear, tells the AP-MPA.
“I estimate that there were between 120 and 200 bones but there were many missing, especially small bones in the animal’s arms and legs which were probably eaten by foxes and jackals,” says Ivovits who needed dozens of hours of work to restore the skeleton working in the building where she is hosting it, the former Fisherman’s Primary School building.
“It was a big puzzle, but with very heavy pieces, which I started by first dividing the bones into right and left side. Even though there was a lot missing, we decided not to replace them in any way but to leave the gaps, except for the front teeth, which we made what was missing.”
The bear’s skeleton was placed in a dynamic pose, with a walking motion and the head turned slightly to the right.
“I had three goals, firstly that what I was going to make was beautiful, secondly that it was anatomically correct and thirdly that it was strong, especially in terms of balance,” clarifies the Doctor of Zoology.
In the coming months, according to the coordinator of the process, Mr Ziogas, a point of awareness of the event and “empowerment for all those who believe that coexistence is possible and extermination is what it is: brutal murder”.
The LIFE ARCPROM project aims to improve human-bear coexistence in four National Parks in Northern Europe, three in Greece and one in Italy, started in October 2019 and will run for 5 years. The project partners are four National Parks (Prespes, North Pindos, Rhodope Mountainrange and Maiella), two universities (Thessaly and Western Macedonia), and two environmental organisations (Callisto and WWF Italy).
Bear, bear 1, bear 2, bear 3 : Konstantinos Mavaraganis
Bear 4: Yiannis Ziogas
Bear 5: Gifts of Siafla