6 min read

These Bears Spent 14 Years Locked Up At A Bus Depot

Their world just got so much bigger ❤👏

Fourteen miserable years. That’s how long two bears spent locked up in a metal cage at a bus depot near Yerevan, Armenia. But they’re finally getting a change of scenery.

Last year, team members from International Animal Rescue (IAR) and the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) discovered the two bears languishing at the busy bus depot — and their hearts broke.

Bears locked up in cage at bus depot
IAR

“The team was shocked to see the conditions the bears were being kept in,” Lis Key, PR and communications manager of IAR, who personally attended this rescue, told The Dodo. “The cage was incredibly small and filthy. It was no place for any animal to live.”

Captive bear inside cage
IAR

“I think the workers at the bus depot fed them,” Key added. “There were huge sacks of apples stacked by the cage, but I don’t think much cleaning took place, judging by the mounds of feces in the cage.”

Bear alone inside metal cage
IAR

In Armenia, it’s sadly common for bears to be kept on public display as “entertainment,” although they’re often grossly neglected. In an effort to help these bears, IAR and FPWC launched the Great Bear Rescue last October, and the team has already freed over 30 bears across Armenia.

Bear's cage at bus depot
The bears' cage at the bus depot | IAR

“There has been a custom in the past in Armenia to keep caged bears, sometimes as tourist attractions at restaurants and other public venues, or as part of private collections of exotic wild animals,” Key said. “Happily these traditions are changing and dying out, with a little help from IAR and FPWC.”

Bears locked up in metal cage at bus depot
IAR

When the team initially tried to rescue the bears from the bus depot, they were met with fierce opposition — the owner had no desire to relinquish the animals.

Things changed the following year. New government officials who support the Great Bear Rescue put pressure on the owner, and he finally surrendered the bears last week.

Filthy cage
It looked like the bears' cage was rarely cleaned. | IAR

However, there were more hurdles to cross. The male bear, now named Max, weighed over 1,100 pounds, and he was too big to fit inside a normal transport crate, so the team had to get a horse trailer to move him. Thankfully, the female bear, Minnie, was able to be transported in a standard crate.

Bear locked up inside metal cage
IAR

Besides this hiccup, the rescue operation went smoothly. Both bears were safely sedated and moved to their new home at a local sanctuary. They’ll first have to spend several weeks in quarantine, but the team is making sure they’re comfortable and warm in their enclosure.

People working to move bear to safety
Rescuers getting ready to move Minnie into the transport crate | IAR

“We have a camera in the bears’ quarantine quarters, and we watched them last night sleeping curled up together,” Key said. “It confirms that they are settling in beautifully. It’s lovely that they are both now back together and have a warm bed of straw to sleep on. The male bear was lying on his back with his paws in the air, just like a comfy dog.”

Bear being rescued
The team moving one of the sedated bears | IAR

“For my part, it was absolutely thrilling to be present at the rescue of these two bears, and witness the dedication and determination of everyone involved to set them free at last,” Key added.

To help rescue more bears like Max and Minnie, you can make a donation to IAR.