Bloomberg BusinessWeek has reported this week that brown bears that were kept in captivity in the Ukraine are now being released. But first they have to go to rehab. That’s because the bears are alcoholics.
Apparently, Soviet Bloc counties for decades kept brown bears in captivity to entertain tourists in restaurants and roadside attractions. To subdue the bears and to get them to perform tricks, they were continually given vodka or the local moonshine to get them drunk. These “vodka bears” were kept in small pens were bar patrons would play and even tease them while giving them vodka.
However, for the month of June the Ukraine, along with Poland, has hosted the UEFA 2012 European Football Championships and enormous numbers of foreigners and foreign journalists have been in the country. The government thought it prudent to sober up the bears and return them to the forest, even though most of them have never set paw on grass before. The government has begun putting the bears, which the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources currently estimate to number about 80, into the Synevir Nature Preserve where, one representative says, “they can learn to be bears again.”
The article also quotes Yuri Tyukh, Vice Director of the Synevir Nature Preserve, “If a foreigner comes here and sees a bear in a bar being treated terribly, it’s very bad for the country’s image. Then, before long, we’ll have to worry about Greenpeace, the WWF – all these people and what they will say about us.”
But before they can be released, they need to be weaned from their vodka habit. Several bears have been moved into 6×10 foot pens at the preserve near the Carpathian Mountains where they live without alcohol before being released into the nearby forest.
The history of the vodka bears is a bit murky, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) believes they are related to the dancing bears found during the rule of Peter the Great of Russia. PETA also believes that dancing bears actually date back as far as the 16th century when the Kalandar tribe entertained Mughal emperors with bears in India.
Fortunately, there are not that many bears to rehabilitate. As Ukraine becomes more and more industrialized and more foreign people and investments pour into the country, the communities that keep these bears dwindles. In the meantime, the Synevir Natural Preserve will continue to rescue and rehabilitate the bears as they receive them. It’s a slow process because there is no government mandate ordering the bears to be released. It’s up the Preserve’s representatives to travel the country and convince bear owners to relinquish them. However, a larger concern is whether there will there be enough forest habitat left in the country for the bears to live in peace.
For more information, read the full article here.
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