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Animal Friends Blog


Guest blog: Emptying the cages: Armenia’s forgotten bears

Our friends at International Animal Rescue, a charity working hard to save animals from suffering, but also help rehabilitate and release them back into the wild and work to protect their precious natural habitats have written a fantastic blog about their Great Bear Rescue project.

Hidden behind a 10ft gate, set back off a busy main road on the outskirts of Armenia’s capital city, sits a derelict building site. Tools collect dust and rusted diggers sink into the gravel. Speeding trucks pierce the silence of this barren landscape. At first, we struggle to hear the faint whimper of the trapped bear, but then we see him, head hung low in his tiny cage. Our work begins.

We arrived in the blistering heat, the veterinary teams were unsure what to expect after reports of a caged brown bear suffering in captivity for five long and lonely years. Among the chaos of our translator trying to reason with the bear’s ‘owner’, I walked towards the tiny cage and the smell of faeces hit me before I noticed the filthy sewer water running along the foot of the cage.

For a moment, I tried to imagine what life must have been like for this beautiful brown bear. Fed on scraps, his only view an empty building site, year after year. Helplessly peering through the cage, the bear seemed vacant, staring off into the distance and seemingly unaware of the commotion unfolding before him.

Across Armenia, brown bears are being captured as cubs and forced to live out their lives in captivity for the entertainment of restaurant guests, tourists or as pets. The bears are treated purely as objects in the same way as the tables and chairs in the restaurants. They have no names or medical records.

The Great Bear Rescue

In 2017, we launched the Great Bear Rescue and with the help of our supporters around the world, we pledged to rescue each and every caged bear across Armenia. Partnering with FPWC (Foundation of the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets), we have rescued 23 bears in just two years. Some of these bears will be candidates for reintroduction into protected areas of the Armenian Highlands, while those that can no longer fend for themselves will be given lifelong care.

How Animal Friends have helped

Thanks to the £5,000 donation from Animal Friends Pet Insurance, I’m pleased to report that our recent trip to Armenia was a success. We were able to dart the bear and safely transport him to our sanctuary. This only happened within the last two weeks and we have not named him yet, but he is slowly recovering in quarantine with plenty of apples and fresh straw. As with many of the bears we rescue, his teeth were in an awful condition after years of gnawing on the bars to try and free himself. With continued support, we will ensure he receives specialist veterinary and dental treatment to reduce his suffering and pain.

But there are 50 bears still remaining that we know of and we are determined to rescue each and every one. Since I have been home, we have launched a petition to help rescue three bears we came across, currently caged in a restaurant complex. Pressure is mounting on the restaurant owner and we won’t stop until they are free.

Thank you to all of the customers and staff at Animal Friends Pet Insurance. With your kind contribution, one less bear is suffering in silence. I’m pleased to report the rescued bear is recovering well and has a big appetite! Our work continues and I hope you will stand by us on this journey.

For more information about our Great Bear Rescue, please visit: https://www.internationalanimalrescue.org/greatbearrescue

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Hello, lovely readers, I'm Catrin George. I'm a treat dispenser and walk giver to Marvel, the border collie. I'm here to give you the latest updates and low downs on anything and everything pet related, whether they miaow, woof, or neigh. The blogs will be filled with news, reviews, and charity visits with some discounts and giveaways squeezed in-between. So, keep your eyes peeled here!

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