Two endangered Syrian brown bears were heading to new life in the United States on Sunday after being rescued from the cramped nature of a Lebanese zoo, two charities said.
Homer and Ulysses, each 18 years old and weighing 130 kilograms (280 pounds), lived in a zoo near the southern city of Tire, said the animal rights association Animals Lebanon.
They were released “after convincing the owner of the zoo that they deserved better than the little cement cages they were kept in for over ten years,” he said in a statement.
The bears were scheduled to leave Beirut on Sunday evening to head to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in the US state of Colorado.
Syrian brown bears are a relatively small subspecies of the endangered brown bear, but no longer exist in the wild in Syria or Lebanon, according to the British group Bear Conservation.
Animals Lebanon director Jason Meir said the bears were likely imported from Eastern Europe.
They were supposed to travel at the end of 2019, but banking restrictions linked to the Lebanese economic crisis and then the coronavirus pandemic had postponed the trip.
Four Paws, an international organization also participating in the relocation, said it first encountered the bears in November 2019.
“Trapped in tiny cages, some smaller than a ping-pong table, the bears had no water, sporadic food and inadequate shelter from the elements,” he said in a statement. .
“The two bears suffered not only from malnutrition but also from extreme stress. “
Meir said he was aware of around 30 lions and tigers as well as around 10 other bears still kept as exotic pets and in private zoos in the Mediterranean country.
© 2021 AFP