Nissan the polar bear was on the last leg of a long journey from his birthplace in Russia to a new home in Yorkshire, England, when he got a few unexpected visitors: desperate migrants.
The truck carrying the animal was stopped in the French port of Calais, the location of a sprawling refugee camp called the Jungle, where many migrants heading east to west — much like Nissan — have come to rest, United Press International reported.
The bear’s journey to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park has been filmed in its entirety, and the camera was rolling when a group of men forced the door of the truck open as it waited in traffic and tried to slip inside illegally. The mission was to sneak their way across the Channel to England.
But they weren’t expecting to see a wild animal waiting to greet them inside the truck. Yorkshire Wildlife Park spokesman Simon Marsh called the unexpected visit by migrants a “hiccup.”
“Nissan had some unexpected guests in the back of the lorry. Obviously he was in a crate, so it was all very safe and secure, but I think they were a bit surprised when they saw a polar bear. It’s not probably what they were expecting when they opened the back of the lorry. Even at two years old he’s a big animal and he can be very dangerous. I think a lot of people in Calais would have been in trouble if he hadn’t been in his crate.”
A video of the interaction was posted on YouTube.
According to BBC News, four men climbed aboard the truck. Upon seeing the bear, one man turned tail and fled, but three others climbed in, with the help of their friends, next to the animal. Thankfully for the migrants, he was in a cage.
Regardless, they were described as “shocked’ to see the polar bear.
The migrants who didn’t have enough room to join their friends and the polar bear inside the truck closed the door behind them. But their safe haven was short-lived, their clandestine journey across the Channel interrupted.
After only 10 minutes, the French police were contacted and arrived to order the migrants off the trunk. Officials confirmed that they were trying to smuggle themselves into England.
The 22-month-old male is now at the wildlife park, where he joins two others, a 15-year-old named Victor and Pixel, 2, Sky News added. Nissan will spend the next few weeks getting used to his new home and friends at the 10-acre Project Polar reserve, which imitates the Arctic habitat. Nissan was born at the Izhevsk Zoo in Russia and has been brought to England for a breeding program.
“He’s absolutely fine,” a spokesman said. “He appears to be settling in well with Victor and Pixel.”
Though the migrants’ surprise at coming face to face with a polar bear may be amusing, the Washington Post noted that the men’s willingness to shimmy up next to the dangerous animal just to get across the border is a sign of desperation.
Calais is the closest crossing point from the European continent to the British Isles and thus has become a temporary home to people seeking asylum. The polar bear’s new home is likely more comfortable than their informal camp, the Jungle, which was described by a Post reporter named Griff White as “a cauldron of poverty, disease, violence and frustrated ambition.”
And it’s becoming harder for migrants to leave the camp thanks to tough security measures. These new rules have led many to risk everything for asylum.
“The result is a combustible mix: a growing population of people who don’t want to be here and who despair that they will never be able to leave. More than perhaps anywhere else on Europe’s migrant trail, the mood here is increasingly defiant, with asylum seekers becoming ever bolder in their attempts to challenge security forces head-on and break through the tightening cordon that prevents them from reaching Britain.”
[Photo Courtesy Hayati Kayhan / Shutterstock]