Lifestyle & Belief

Mission underway to rescue Ukraine's "vodka bears"


Angel Angelv, center, with his colleague Todor and dancing bear 'Gosho' perform on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria for small change. The bear is pierced through his nose and led on a metal pole, a tether that keeps him from attacking humans.


Kael Alford/Newsmakers

An animal welfare group is on a mission to rescue dozens of "vodka bears" in Ukraine. 

The brown bears are so named because they are forced to drink vodka and then perform in hotels and restaurants for money.

"Bears can also be found with their owners performing to passers by at petrol stations throughout the country," the animal rescue group Four Paws International said.

South Africa-based vet Dr. Amir Khalil, who has also helped rescue "dancing bears" in Bulgaria, said the animals are locked in tiny cages.

South Africa's Eyewitness News reported:

Khalil said it was barbaric to keep brown bears who roam up to 40 km [25 miles] a day in the wild in tiny cages and to turn them into alcoholics.

The group Four Paws announced this week it has signed cooperation agreements to create a new nature reserve for brown bears near Ukraine's border with Hungary.

The plan is to rescue around 80 bears and move them to the new reserve, called the Brown Bear Rehabilitation Center, located in the National Nature Park Synevyr. Some bear owners have agreed to release their bears, while others will be forced to do so, the group said.

The nature reserve will be provided with a "bear ambulance" to rescue and transfer the vodka-drinking bears in the coming months.