Neglected dancing bears leave notorious Pakistan zoo for new life in Jordan

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A sick brown bear sits at his enclosure in the Marghazar Zoo, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Kathy Gannon, Associated Press

A pair of sick and badly neglected dancing Himalayan brown bears will leave Islamabad’s notorious zoo for a sanctuary in Jordan.

Marghazar Zoo’s horrific conditions gained international notoriety when Kaavan, dubbed “the world’s loneliest elephant” grabbed headlines and the attention of American entertainer Cher.

Kaavan was transferred to his new home in Cambodia last month.


Dr. Amir Khalil (centre) and wildlife workers move one of the crates to be used to transport the bears (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Islamabad High Court ordered the zoo, which once housed 960 animals, be closed earlier this year because of its conditions, blamed on systemic negligence.

Dr Amir Khalil, a veterinarian with Four Paws International, confirmed on Wednesday that the last of the zoo’s animals, Himalayan brown bears Suzie and Bubaloo, will leave for Jordan.

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The global animal welfare group has been caring for the zoo’s badly treated animals.

The bears, trained from an early age to entertain, are making their way to Jordan with the assistance of the Princess Alia Foundation, headed by the eldest daughter of Jordan’s late King Hussein.

The 17-year-old bears will live in a sanctuary 3,300ft above sea level.

That means they will have the snowy, cold conditions more typical of their natural habitat – something they have missed in Pakistan’s capital, Dr Khalil said.


Suzie has been more inclined to get into a cage than Bubaloo (Anjum Naveed/AP)

The bears should be preparing for hibernation in December but instead are living in cramped quarters, separated from each other and in poor health.

“They are exhibiting stereotypical behaviour” for animals who have suffered years of mistreatment, Dr Khalil said.

He spent weeks training Suzie to enter the cage that will carry her to Jordan.

Bubaloo has been less inclined to get into the cage and will be sedated for the trip.

Both have a number of health issues.

Suzie is malnourished – her teeth were removed so she didn’t attack her trainer or tourists, making it difficult for her to eat.

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Dr Khalil has her food cut up and put her on a diet of chicken and fish to give her nourishment.


Bubaloo has an abscessed tooth that is making him aggressive and bad-tempered, Dr Khalil said, which is unusual for Himalayan brown bears who “have a really wonderful nature”.

Pakistan’s Wildlife Foundation has been working with Dr Khalil and the government is investing millions to build a world-class sanctuary in place of the zoo that will help rescue animals.

Dr Khalil is bringing two Wildlife Foundation workers to Jordan to learn the skills of running a sanctuary.

“At this time it is important to speak about humanity and when you speak about humanity it is not just about humans,” he concluded.

“A kind person should be kind to humans and to animals.”

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