Every year wild bears are illegally caught or trapped by poachers in Armenia. Once captured, many of them end up in small, squalid cages in restaurants and other public entertainment venues as a tourist attraction. Some are kept in bus depots, others are hidden from view in dark cellars. Some of the bears are mentally and physically damaged by the boredom and frustration of their miserable existence behind bars.
Shockingly, in some rural restaurants in Armenia, bear meat is even available to those who know to request it.
The bears in Armenia are Syrian Brown Bears (Ursus arctos syriacus), one of the smaller sub-species of brown bear. They are found in the mountainous areas of the country where they forage for fruits, berries and insects in the meadows and forests and hibernate in caves and tree hollows. Their barren prisons are a far cry from their natural home in the forest.
Many bears are being kept captive in miserable conditions across Armenia, including in the capital city of Yerevan. Some have been incarcerated for years in cramped cages with scarcely any food or water. Their environment meets none of their psychological or physical needs. They have very little space to move around in. They are given unsuitable and insufficient food and no environmental enrichment to distract and amuse them. The bears have been deprived of their dignity and their freedom. They lack everything they need to live life as nature intended.