Endangered bears leave Lebanon for a better life in US animal sanctuary

    31 Jul 2021

    Two endangered bears living in poor conditions in a Lebanon zoo have been flown to an animal sanctuary in the US after losing weight and suffered from other health issues, Arab News reports.

    The Syrian brown bear lived in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, but the species became extinct due to illegal and non-organized hunting in Lebanon.

    Rights association Animals Lebanon said it managed to persuade its owner that “the bears deserved better” given the creatures’ deteriorating condition.

    Lebanon’s economic crisis considered the worst in its modern history, had affected animals as much as humans.

    Families have given up their pets, unable to feed them in light of sharp rises in the dollar exchange rate. Zoos have also been affected, with animals facing malnourishment and owners no longer securing their basic needs.

    Animals Lebanon said the two Syrian brown bears, called Homer and Ulysses, had been trapped for more than ten years in a zoo in the southern city of Tyre.

    “There are six bears still waiting to be rescued in the north of Lebanon, Bekaa and Beirut,” the association’s director, Jason Mier, told Arab News.

    Previous attempts to get the bears to the Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary had failed due to the pandemic, roadblocks, banks freezing assets, and waiting to obtain the sanctuary’s confirmation to receive the creatures.

    Families have given up their pets, unable to feed them in light of sharp rises in the dollar exchange rate. Zoos have also been affected, with animals facing malnourishment and owners no longer securing their basic needs.

    The sanctuary cares for more than 650 lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and other animals – including a fox and a wallaby rescued by Animals Lebanon.

    Animal rescue organization Four Paws offered to help bear the cost of the animals’ trip to Colorado.

    Mier said: “There are six zoos we are aware of in Lebanon. In 2017, we passed the Animal Protection and Welfare Law, which regulates zoos. These zoos hold endangered wildlife, local wildlife, and farmed or domesticated animals. There are about 30 lions, ten bears, and ten tigers. We believe conditions need to be drastically improved at all zoos.”

    Dr. Assad Serhal, director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, told Arab News that the Syrian brown bear was an endangered species seen in the mountainous area of eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian borders.

    In 2019, an environmental activist filmed a brown cub playing on the road in the outskirts of Ersal, in the Bekaa valley. That same cub was previously seen with his mother in 2017 in the same area. This species had not been seen in Lebanon for over 50 years.

    Serhal said Lebanon was home to several species of wild animals but that most had been captured by zoo owners across the country.

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