BURSA – İhlas News Agency

Big Mama and Kira try to enjoy their new surroundings at the bear sanctuary in Bursa
Big Mama and Kira, the last two animals residing at a shutdown zoo in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, have been safely airlifted to the bear sanctuary in Bursa.
The two bears arrived late last week and have been feeding on carrots, peanuts, grapes and pears since they landed. They will be released into the general bear population after a month-long recuperation period.
The two 5-year-old bears rescued from a circus were being kept at the Hamra Zoo in Beirut before general public criticism about the animals’ living conditions resulted in officials’ shutting the whole place down seven months ago.
Many animals were sold and a British group took the monkeys while the two bears were abandoned to their fate, being left to survive in rusty steel cages.
Local animal lovers tried to care for the bears no one wanted, carrying water and food to the cages every day. Then Alertis, a Netherlands-based bear group that defines its mission as protecting bears and their habitats, was notified, and the group contacted the Bursa Uludağ University veterinary sciences department.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry, when alerted to the state of the bears, said Big Mama and Kira could be taken care of at the bear sanctuary at Ovakorusu in Bursa.
Professor Nilüfer Aytuğ and her team from the Uludağ University veterinary sciences department were sent by the ministry to Beirut with special cages to bring back the animals.
Authorities prepared a special zone for the newest members of the sanctuary, where Big Momma and Kira were placed soon after their arrival.
The sanctuary announced that the bears were getting used to their environment and were recovering gradually. The sanctuary said the bears would be released into the wild in one month. The two bears, rescued from a traveling Ukrainian circus two years ago, will hopefully adapt to their new surroundings as soon as possible.
Aytuğ, a veterinary expert on internal diseases, said the most important part of the operation was undertaken by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
“First of all, they dealt with the subject. They started the processes rapidly when they saw the photos that had alarmed the people in the world,” she said.
She said a letter of emergency sent to Alertis had begun the operation. “Alertis sent me the letter and asked whether the bears could be looked after at the Ovakorusu Natural Bear Sanctuary. After this, I applied to our Environment and Forestry Ministry. When our ministry realized that the bears were in a bad condition, they accepted it rapidly.”
Brits adopt monkeys:
Aytuğ said the government closed Hamra Zoo after protests from animal lovers. “There are animals struggling for life behind rusty steel bars. The British adopted the monkeys, but these two poor bears weren’t looked after by any institution. Animal lovers in Beirut looked after the bears by bringing them water and fruit for six months.”
Aytuğ said the cute circus bears were taken to Ovakorusu five days ago after a long and arduous trip.
“They got used to their new home at a shorter time than we dared to expect,” she said.
“Currently, they are getting used to the other bears in a private part built for them, with a swimming pool and canopies and they will be released into their natural habitat one month later,” she said.