BEIRUT: Two endangered Syrian brown bears rescued from a private zoo in south Lebanon are on their way to a US wildlife sanctuary, two charities Sunday.
Now named Homer and Ulysses, the two 18-year-old bears were freed after the zoo owner was convinced that they deserved better than the small concrete cages they had been kept in for over 10 years, Animals Lebanon said in a statement.
“No animal should have to live in such terrible conditions. Without proper food, veterinary care or housing,” said Animals Lebanon Director Jason Mier. “For the first time in their life they can actually be bears, with large natural enclosures and the ability to experience and enjoy their days.”
Animals Lebanon partnered with Four Paws International. Weighing 130 kilograms, the bears were sedated, given a quick medical examination and then moved into large metal transport crates for the journey.
Homer and Ulysses flew from Beirut with Emirates, transiting through Dubai on their way to Chicago, after which they will be driven to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in 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, the UK-based Bear Conservation group says.
Four Paws, an international organisation also taking part in the relocation, said it had first met 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 weather," it said in a statement.
"Both bears not only suffered from malnutrition but also extreme stress."
Meir said he was aware of about 30 lions and tigers as well as around 10 more bears still kept as exotic pets and in private zoos in the Mediterranean country.
Animals Lebanon has closed four substandard zoos, relocating animals to sanctuaries in the US, UK, the European Union and South Africa.