In the Black Sea city of Sochi in Russia, two bears were kept in shocking conditions for over 20 years. They are both alcoholic because their owner, a restaurateur, encouraged customers to feed them drinks.
Earlier this month, a court ordered the two males, one of which is blind, to be confiscated from their owner. The Big Hearts Foundation, a charity, with help from other organizations including La Fondation Brigitte Bardot, are organizing the transportation of the two animals to a sanctuary in Romania.
The restaurant owner had tried to keep the bears. He had said alcohol was good for their health, because Sochi can be a very cold place.
The two bears, one of them blind, have lived in this filthy cage for over 20 years. (Image: Big Hearts Foundation)
The Libearty Bear Sanctuary says it will also provide them with specialist treatment for their alcohol dependency.
They have lived in a small, filthy cage behind the restaurant for most of their lives.
Overcoming local bureaucracy
However, it will be a while before Sochi authorities have the travel paperwork in ready.
Anna Kogan, head of the Big Hearts Foundation, was quoted by the BBC as saying:
“The court order is there to take them away but there is nowhere to put them in Sochi. It’s a very expensive process to move them abroad.”
The charity says it is still seeking help to get the two bears across the Black Sea by boat.
Ms. Kogan added:
“The people there have worked with dancing bears who had similar problems… it can be done.”
Libearty Bear Sanctuary
Cristina Lapis saw three bears in 1998 in a small cage outside a restaurant in Romania. They were being used to attract customers. Over time, she learned there were several bears across the country used for the same purpose.
The Libearty Bear Sanctuary has 70 rescued animals. (Image: Libearty Bear Sanctuary)
She decided she would rescue these distressed animals and attempt to change public attitudes to stop this cruel and illegal exploitation of one of the country’s beautiful native animals.
On its website, the Sanctuary writes:
“Now that dream is being realised, with over 70 bears enjoying a new life in the Libearty Bear Sanctuary – 70 hectares of oak and hazel forest in the Carpathian Mountains above the Transylvanian town of Zarnesti.”
“Here, the bears climb trees, swim in the pools and forage on the vegetation. For many of them, having been caught from the wild as cubs, this is a new and stimulating experience.”
Donate to the Big Hearts Foundation.
Video – Customers feeding the two bears