AN ANIMAL charity is fighting to rescue three caged bears being kept as a tourist attraction at a restaurant in Armenia.
International Animal Rescue is calling on the restaurant owner to hand over the bears and a petition demanding their release has been signed by more than 5,000 people. The animals are imprisoned in a small barren cage outside the Ashtaraki Dzor restaurant, near Armenia’s capital Yerevan. Heartbreaking videos and pictures show the miserable bears trapped behind the metal bars.
One visitor to the restaurant described the cage as “filthy”, while tourists were also filmed making fun of the tragic animals.
IAR’s chief executive Alan Knight said: “Animal cruelty and neglect is no laughing matter.
“These bears deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not as objects of ridicule. And they deserve the freedom to live and behave like bears.
“Once we have the go ahead to rescue them, we can move them to our centre where they will be treated with compassion and respect.
“Our team has a wealth of experience in the rehabilitation of rescued bears and will give them all the treatment and care they need to recover from their miserable years in captivity.”
The restaurant visitor added that the owner should be “ashamed” and urged for the bears to be freed.
They said: “The bears are caged in the corner of what is essentially a car park. I located them by the smell coming from their filthy cage. No one seems to care about them.
“The owner should be ashamed of exploiting these poor animals in this way.
“He should seize the opportunity to do the kind and compassionate thing and give them up.”
IAR is hoping its petition will put pressure on the restaurant owner to let them rescue the suffering bears, who would live in the mountains in the wild.
The charity has received the backing of high-profile celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Fearne Cotton, Peter Egan and Lucy Watson.
And heavy metal band System of a Down, whose lead singer Serj Tankian is Armenian, are also supporting the campaign.