Fishermen rescued two drowning wild brown bear cubs in a Russian lake with video footage showing the remarkable affinity between beast and man.
The heart-warming film and pictures highlight how the frightened bears placed their total faith in the tourists in a boat on Lake Vygozero in the Karelia region of northern Russia.
In the footage, thought to have been taken last month, the wild animals had lost their mother crossing the lake after she overestimated their swimming abilities.
The cubs were literally sinking and would have perished without the quick-thinking intervention of the Russian tourists.
The eyes and expressions of one of the bears showed utter fear and desperation, instinctively knowing only the fishermen could save them.
Ruslan Lukanin, from Moscow, said: ‘They had swum[across the lake] with their mother.
‘But she overestimated her strength and swam away.
‘The cubs began to sink.
‘We picked them up and dragged them to the island to which their mother had swum.
‘It was dangerous, of course.
‘But they are living creatures.
‘We couldn’t just look the other way.’
Extraordinary images show the light-faced cub seemingly pleading the fishermen to save it, with the tourists wanting to help but conscious that they were rescuing wild animals that could also attack them.
The men talk back to cub, encouraging it, as if it was a human child.
Man 1: ‘Take a rest, little one, take a rest. Hold on, hold on. But what if it he bites us?’
Man 2: ‘No, he won’t, he’s just clinging on for his life.’
Man 1: ‘Hold on, hold on. Look he uses his paw to hold.’
Man 2: ‘Need to help him, to hold his bum.’
The fishermen put a net under the cub to help it use its paws to climb aboard the boat.
Man 1: ‘Don’t be afraid, just don’t be afraid. We’ll rescue you, don’t be afraid. It’s heavy! The net is rotating.’
Man 2 (who holds the cub with the net): ‘It’s damned heavy, yes!’
The bear cub – helped by Man 2 and a net – managed finally to clamber on board the boat.
Man 2: ‘Get it…’
Man 1: ‘Sit there, near the engine.’
The second bear with a dark face is lifted out of the lake, too, and carried on netting on the boat, totally exhausted from the ordeal in the water.
The men took them to one of 500-plus islands on the lake – where their mother had swum, evidently unaware of the desperate plight of her offspring.
Ready to drop, the cubs had to be helped into the forest.
‘They were too weak to walk by themselves,’ said one of the fishermen.
They took the bears into the trees hoping that their neglectful mother would find them and help them recover.