Two bears have been rescued from living in a restaurant in Sochi after a petition by World Animal Protection and Big Hearts Foundation was signed by over 130,000 people.
The 20-year-old brown bears had been living in a filthy cage in a restaurant since they were just cubs as an attraction for the customers. They were first used for photographs with the customers while they were young, but after they grew up they were placed in a small cage next to the restaurant and never left. They were fed beer often by customers who enjoyed getting them drunk and they ended up developing a drinking problem. The bears also had a spotlight shone on them at night and one of the bears is now almost blind because of it.
Last month, the owner of the restaurant and the bears, Dzheniks Uzaroshvili, lost custody of the animals despite claiming they were not being mistreated and that beer was good for them because of the weather.
The zoo refused to take them after the court ruling due to their drinking problem, which caused the bears mood swings and other behavioural problems. But over the weekend, the bears were finally seized and moved to an animal shelter in Moscow, which has other bears in its care.
Both World Animal Protection and the Big Heart Foundation will now be working with the Moscow shelter to get the animals to a bear sanctuary in Romania.
“We are delighted that this petition has resulted in action being taken to remove the bears from the terrible conditions in which they were being held. So many people around the world have been moved by their plight that it was clearly impossible to ignore any longer,” said Ruud Tombrock, Regional Director at WAP.
“Our offer to move the bears to the AMP Bear Sanctuary is still open – that offer was made to the Ministry of Natural Resources via the petition, and to the Krasnodar Court which is still looking into the issue. We shall also be contacting the animal sanctuary in Moscow with the same offer.
“The speed with which the authorities have acted in the wake of these tens of thousands of signatures means we should be cautiously optimistic about their chances of a better future. These are elderly bears who have never known freedom and now it seems they at least have the chance of a better life.”
Anna Kogan, from the Big Hearts Foundation said: “Over the weekend we had managed to convince the bears’ ex-owner to hand them over to us to be relocated to the AMP sanctuary in Romania without waiting for court decision.
“This sudden evacuation of the bears to Moscow was a surprise, and I would have preferred for them to have ended up in a more natural environment. Hopefully we can get the Moscow shelter to agree.”