The Armenian Environmental Network (AEN) recently launched a petition addressed to Aramayis Grigoryan, the Republic of Armenia’s Minister of Nature Protection, asking him to halt the illegal capture of brown bears in Armenia for entertainment. The petition has already collected 1,000 signatures and is still live.
The size of the bear population in Armenia is unknown, but it is thought to be declining. Bears are listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List and the Red Data Book of Armenia, making bear capture and hunting illegal. Still, poaching and habitat destruction are the two main threats to bears in Armenia.
Bears are taken from the wild and kept in cages in private facilities—including restaurants, homes, and hotels—as an attraction and entertainment. They are also bred in captivity, and their cubs are often given away as gifts or sold. It is estimated that more than 60 bears are held in captivity in private facilities, although the actual number is likely much more.
The display of these large powerful animals is not only harmful for the bears, but is also highly dangerous for the public. There have been both instances of people getting injured by bears as well as of bears escaping.
A local conservation organization, the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets, has plans to establish a bear sanctuary in Armenia and to work with the government to confiscate some of the caged bears. Unfortunately, such a sanctuary would only have the capacity to house 20 or so bears, leaving the majority in private facilities.
Serda Ozbenian, the executive director of AEN explains, “What is urgently needed now is a commitment from the government to enforce its own laws and abide by the international treaties it has ratified and halt the further capture and breeding of bears, prosecute those who attempt to trap and display bears, and work with conservation organizations to find appropriate homes for the bears currently in captivity.”
The group has asked for those with information on and pictures of bears in captivity to e-mail [email protected]
Sign the petition here.