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Bears rescued from Pakistan find new home in Jordan

A seventeen-year-old brown Himalayan bear is seen at its new home at Al-Ma’wa sanctuary, after being rescued from a zoo in Pakistan. (Photo: Handout from Al-Ma’wa sanctuary)
A seventeen-year-old brown Himalayan bear is seen at its new home at Al-Ma’wa sanctuary, after being rescued from a zoo in Pakistan. (Photo: Handout from Al-Ma’wa sanctuary)
AMMAN — From the crisp Himalayas to the hot Middle East, two former dancing bears rescued from a zoo in Pakistan have found a new home in a Jordanian wildlife sanctuary near Jerash.اضافة اعلان

Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife is a non-profit organization that was established in 2011 through a partnership between the Princess Alia Foundation and Four Paws International, an animal rescue organization, seeking to provide a home for rescued wildlife from across the region.

The two rescued bears are seventeen-year-old brown Himalayan bears, a female and a male, who go by Suzie and Bubloo. 

The pair first arrived to Jordan from Pakistan in December 2020. However, they have been quarantined until they arrived at the sanctuary ten days ago, Mustafa Khreshat, Al Ma’wa’s manager, told Jordan News in an interview over the phone.

This, according to Khreshat, is standard practice for animals that arrive to Jordan, as some animals may carry diseases. Additionally, quarantine provides them time to adjust to the change in climate and ease their psychological wellbeing.

“The animals were in a state of extreme anxiety; they had more psychological than physical problems. They had what is known as ‘stereotypic behavior,’” Khreshat explained.

After a thorough rehabilitation process, Al Ma’wa transported the bears to the primary sanctuary in Jerash, where a specific area tailored to their species was prepared.

Khreshat added that the bears were given vast areas of land and are being cared for by a qualified team of caretakers.

“The 17-year-old bear duo lived in a zoo in Pakistan their whole lives. They’re former dancing bears,” he said.

However, as a result of their old age and the criminalization of the practice of bear dancing worldwide, the bears were forced to retire at the zoo in Pakistan, which, according to Khreshat, was then closed down.

“They were in a very bad condition. Animals that are caged in small spaces and animals that are raised to take part in activities they were not created to do, like dancing or performing in front of an audience, are tortured to take part in these activities,” he said. 

Khreshat said the 17 years of the two bears’ lives were full of suffering and even though they have improved significantly, Suzie and Bubloo will still need more time to trust humans again and feel comfortable in their new safe environment. Al Ma’wa is dedicated to providing the two bears with food, medicine, and comprehensive care, the manager said.

“There is improvement definitely, but the bears need more time to be a hundred percent rehabilitated,” Khreshat added.

Khreshat told Jordan News the bears were brought to Jordan through Al Ma’wa’s partner, Four Paws, an Austrian animal welfare organization, which was in charge of transporting the animals from Pakistan to Jordan.

“We were the closest available place capable of rehabilitating these animals. That is why they were sent here,” he said.

The sanctuary, which is spread over 110 hectares and relies mainly on donations, currently houses 36 animals, including twenty-three lions, two tigers, two hyenas and nine bears. 

“Al Ma’wa is a regional solution for animals that need sanctuary or animals that are confiscated for being illegally traded. We are the only place in the Middle East and North Africa that is used as a sanctuary for these animals,” Khreshat explained.

The wildlife sanctuary was founded initially as a place for animals that are confiscated by official local authorities such as the Jordanian Customs, the Environmental Police, and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), and now also acts as a refuge for animals rescued from warzones.

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