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article imageAlcoholic Russian bears to be moved to Romania for rehabilitation

By Megan Hamilton     Mar 1, 2015 in Odd News
Sochi - Two alcoholic Russian brown bears who led a sad existence for more than 20 years in a filthy cage may soon have a much better life in Romania.
If everything goes as planned, that is.
In February, a court issued a decision that the two male bears must be confiscated from their owner who kept them in such dire circumstances, BBC News reports. One of the bears is blind, and both became addicted to alcohol because visitors constantly fed them drinks.
The order for their removal becomes effective in March, but until then they're still living in the unpleasant situation and travel paperwork also needs to be issued by Sochi authorities.
"The court order is there to take them away but there is nowhere to put them in Sochi," Anna Kogan, head of the Big Hearts Foundation told the BBC News. The organization is coordinating the move in conjunction with other animal charities, and a Romanian bear sanctuary has offered to take the bears in and provide them with treatment for their alcoholism.
Finding a new place for the bears to live was difficult, Kogan said. Zoos in Russia refused to take the bears because of their problems with addiction, The Independent reports.
"It's very expensive to look after bears in this condition, and many centers just don't have the funds," she said.
Dzhenkis Uzaroshvili, owner of the bears, thinks they have a normal life being fed junk food and beer.
"Beer is good for them because they live in such a climate," he told reporters.
But it's due to his careless neglect that re-homing the bears is a potentially perilous situation, per The Independent.
"Bears have a stronger reaction to alcohol than humans – they can die," she said.
Alcoholic bears have to deal with all the same problems that affect humans, including unpredictable tempers and the withdrawal symptoms that come along with the removal of the alcohol, authorities say. Fortunately, with the proper care, the bears should be able to beat the addiction, according to The Daily Mail.
The British charity won the backing from the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and a new home has been found, The Daily Mail reports.
For the time being, the alcoholic bears are going cold turkey and will be moved to a bear park in Romania. First, they have to be removed from the restaurant and moved to Constanta, a Romanian port, and funds from the foundation will pay for this. Then they will be sent to the Bear Park, located in central Transylvania, near the city of Brasov.
Now the search is on for a company to transport the bears, but they cannot be moved until the Russian authorities act on the court order and confiscate them.
The group is waiting for the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to help out by sending a vet to examine the bears and provide the necessary documents that would allow them to travel internationally. Sadly, they have to stay put in Russia until then, Newsweek reports.
Tragically, it's not uncommon for Russian bear cubs to be orphaned during the spring hunt, and when the cubs venture out, they are captured by humans who either adopt them or kill them. Cubs are kept as pets until they get too big and often wind up in hellish conditions, locked away in cages.
Legislation regarding the welfare of animals is exceedingly limited, so activists like Kogan often have little power. Big Hearts Foundation is the only foreign Non-Governmental Organization petitioning the Russian parliament to make changes to the law in an attempt to curtail widespread abuses.
The court was told that people often shone spotlights on the bears and laughed at the their reactions to the light and evidence was presented that this is the reason why one of the bears is completely blind, The Daily Mail reports.
"There are drunken people who come to the restaurant, park their cars in front of the bears and throw things to the animals so that they get drunk and behave funnily," Kogan said. "They are held in cages – and have been blinded by the car lights."
It's a scene repeated all across Russia.
"There are plenty of these bears, brought up in humans [sic], sitting by the roadsides in cages or outside restaurants," she said. The two bears in Sochi are among the worst she has ever seen.
"This particular case really struck me and I thought we needed to give them a chance," she said. "I don't have anywhere to put them myself, but I thought that if I reached out then maybe someone else would be able to help."
In the wild, where they belong, brown bears are truly impressive. Living in forests and mountainous regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, the brown bear is the world's most widely distributed bear, National Geographic reports.
Brown bears are omnivorous and seem to prefer being solitary animals, with the exception of females and their cubs, but they do gather on occasion, especially in Alaska at key fishing spots when the salmon begin their summer spawning run. Then the huge bears congregate for a fish feast, craving fats that will help them survive the long winter ahead. During the fall, it's not unusual for a brown bear to eat as much as 90 pounds (40 kg) of food each day, and the bear might weigh twice as much prior to hibernation as it will when it wakes in the spring.
In the wild, Brown bears can live as long as 25 years and weigh up to 700 lbs.
When winter approaches, these bears dig dens in preparation for hibernating. Females are often pregnant at this time and will give birth during the winter rest, often to a pair of tiny cubs. These little guys will continue to nurse on mother's milk until spring, and they will stay with her for up to two-and-a-half years. This means that females only reproduce once every three years, National Geographic reports.
Brown bears are fearsome apex predators, but even so, much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, leaves, fruit, and tubers. When they get a chance, they will sometimes eat other animals, including rodents and moose.
For the two bears in Sochi, the sanctuary in Romania awaits. It is currently home to between 60 to 70 bears, most of which were rescued when Romania banned dancing bears and keeping bears in restaurants, Newsweek reports.
But the cost of transporting the bears is staggering — ranging from 7,000 euros ($7,837) to 30,000 euros ($33,587). So Kogan's foundation is looking into cheaper options and hopes to transport the bears by boat across the Black Sea from Sochi into Romania, but hasn't been able to find an organization willing to help just yet.
Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources is the body that has to take the bears away, Kogan says, but they are taking their time because there is nowhere in Sochi to place them temporarily, The Daily Mail reports.
"Big Hearts Foundation and others are happy to organize the move when the authorities start cooperating with us on document preparation and veterinary assessments of the animals."
Hopefully then, these poor bears will have a chance to actually act like bears, and get to feel soft grass under their feet instead of hard cement.
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